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Ethical Policies on the Human Genome, Genetic Research and Services [India]

Cloning in India is not regulated by legislation but by ethical guidelines adopted by authoritative bodies. The Department of Biotechnology of the Ministry of Science and Technology has adopted ethical policies on the human genome, which have laid down inter alia India’s position on cloning. The text, “Ethical Policies on the Human Genome, Genetic Research and Services,” states that, “as a principle, human cloning shall not be permitted.”

Consistent with this policy document, the Indian Council of Medical Research has developed “Ethical Guidelines for Biomedical Research on Human Subjects.” One of the concerns in these guidelines is respect for embryos with regards to research. It is established that “respect for the embryo’s moral status can be shown by careful regulation of conditions of research, safeguards against commercial exploitation of embryo research, and limiting the time within which research can be done to 14 days, i.e., when the primitive streak appears…At this time, the development of the nervous system begins and the embryo begins to become a distinct individual.” Special attention is given to the prohibition of cloning (through nuclear transplantation or embryo splitting). The Council states, “since its [cloning’s] safety, success, utility and ethical acceptability is not yet established, research on cloning with the intent to produce an identical human being…is prohibited.”

Finally, the Indian Council of Medical Research and the Department of Biotechnology have recently drafted guidelines for stem cell research in which they recommend that embryos should not be generated for the sole purpose of obtaining stem cells. Any research related to reproductive cloning and the transfer of human blastocysts generated by somatic cell nuclear transfer into a human or non-human uterus is also prohibited under the draft guidelines.

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