Germany intends to host an international conference on cloning aimed at drawing up a scientific argument for a worldwide ban on human cloning, federal research minister Edelgard Bulmahn said on Friday.
She said a ban on human reproductive cloning had to be reached soon, after so far unproven claims by a sect called the Raelians that it had arranged the successful birth of two cloned babies.
Bulmahn told the Berliner Zeitung newspaper that the conference, slated for May in Berlin, would gather experts and researchers from around the world.
She said that although there was already existing piecemeal legislation on cloning, "an international ban, a convention, would be decisive."
"Nothing else would have the same force or effect," she said, comparing it to the international ban on chemical weapons.
Regardless of the claims of an obscure sect," Bulmahn added, referring to the Raelians, "we must quickly reach an worldwide ban on (human) cloning. Cloning humans must be outlawed."
Reproductive cloning, which is designed to produce a human replica, is not the same as therapeutic cloning for stem cell research. Although they use largely the same techniques, scientists claim therapeutic cloning of cells or organs helps them research and treat serious diseases.
Bulmahn said Germany wanted a ban on human reproductive cloning as that was most urgent and also most likely to win approval. Only then could governments discuss what restrictions, if any, to place on therapeutic cloning.