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Germany

To Clone or not to Clone - That is the Question in Germany

An ethics committee is due to bring Germany's debate on cloning and biotech research forward.

On Thursday, an ethics committee installed by German chancellor Gerhard Schröder will present its views on importing human stem cells for research in Germany. The German parliament is then due to discuss the committee's recommendations early next year.

Tight laws in Germany closely regulate research in the field of biotech research. An Embryo Protection Law prevents scientists here from conducting research on German embryonic cells.

Stem cell research and cloning are highly sensitive issues in Germany because many people are reminded of the Nazi's plans to create a master race. They are afraid modern-day researchers could overstep fundamental ethical borders.

Some scientists say modern biotech research could help find cures for diseases like Parkinson's, cancer leukemia. But others fear that experimenting with human embryos could mean opening a Pandora's box.

Controversial debate in Germany

The president of Germany's parliament, Wolfgang Thierse, on Wednesday warned against trying to clone human embryos. He also spoke out against importing human stem cells for research purposes. He said researchers shouldn't overstep fundamental ethical boundaries and try to create human beings.

German president Johannes Rau also opposes research into embryonic stem cells. President Rau has mainly ceremonial powers, but with his speeches he can influence public opinion and give people and politicians food for thought.

German chancellor Gerhard Schröder has a more liberal attitude towards modern biotech research. He thinks the restrictive German laws governing stem cell research should be eased.

Schröder thinks German scientists could play an important role in this field internationally. He doesn't want these researchers to go abroad if conditions for their research are more favorable for them there. He hopes that biotech research could eventually play an important role in the German economy.

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