Britain to become first country to ban human cloning

NEWCASTLE, England: Britain announced on Thursday it is to become the first country to ban human cloning, but said it aimed to stay at the forefront of genetic technology.Health minister Alan Milburn said he would bring forward legislation within months to outlaw the practice of human cloning.In a speech to scientists and doctors in Newcastle, northeast England, he said that Britain should aim to become a world leader in the genetic revolution in health care.But no progress could be made unless strict boundaries were set to reassure the public, he warned.No scientist has yet cloned a human being and experts say the techniques needed for this to happen have not been fully developed.In Britain, all cloning must be licensed by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority. Research into cloning involving human embryos is restricted to those scientists granted licences.Now the government wants to introduce a specific Act of Parliament to ban human cloning.Milburn, however, told scientists that the human genome project offered huge potential benefits to patients. Scientists believe the genome project, which will provide a map of every human gene, will transform medicine by allowing drugs to be developed to combat a range of diseases.Milburn also unveiled plans for the creation of four genetic "knowledge parks" which would encourage joint ventures between the health service, drug firms and research groups at a cost of 10 million pounds (14 million US dollars, 16 million euros).And more than 20 million pounds is to be spent recruiting medical staff and genetic scientists to enable Britain's health service to keep up with medical advances."The genetics revolution has already begun. It is not going to go away," said Milburn.The government also announced on Thursday that genetic tests for diseases such as cancer are to be made more widely available as part of the public health service.The number of specialist consultants in genetics in England is to double in the next five years and two new national laboratories dedicated to researching new treatments and tests for genetic disorders are to be established.Britain's Department of Health is also beginning talks with US pharmaceutical firm Myriad over access to its gene research into breast cancer. (AFP)