The Council of Europe plays a major role in protecting human rights, alongside promoting the rule of law and democracy as its other fundamental pillars.
The story of Dolly the ewe
In 1996, a groundbreaking cloning experiment was conducted on a ewe named Dolly, which resulted in the birth of the first mammal without fertilization of an ovum and a spermatozoon. Dolly is the result of the constitution of an embryo by fusion in the laboratory of a cell nucleus and an enucleated ovum. The ewe born has a nuclear heritage identical to an already existing individual.
The successful birth of Dolly was a remarkable scientific achievement that paved the way for the creation of transgenic animals or animals with special qualities. Additionally, this technology could potentially be used to save endangered species.
However, the possibility of using this technology on the human genome has raised concerns among the general public.
Content of the Biomedicine Convention
The Biomedicine Convention, also known as the Oviedo Convention, was adopted on April 4th, 1997, with the aim of protecting human rights and dignity of the human being in application of biology and medicine. It has been ratified by 29 countries out of 47 members of the Council. France ratified this Convention by a law on bioethics on July 7th, 2011.
It is the only legally binding international instrument in the biomedical field for the protection of human rights, establishing the fundamental principles relating to the practice of daily medicine, biomedical research, organ and tissue transplantation, and genetics.
Article 2 of the Convention establishes that the human being is to be given precedence over the interests of science. Thus, it prohibits all forms of discrimination against a person based on their genetic heritage and only permits genetic testing when it is justified on medical grounds.
Additional Protocol to the Convention on the Prohibition of Cloning Human Beings
The additional protocol is the first and only binding international legal text that has been developed to prevent the application of mammalian cloning by embryonic division and nuclear transfer to humans. This measure was taken in response to concerns regarding the possible drift towards human cloning.
Article 1 of the Protocol prohibits “any intervention with the aim of creating a human being genetically identical to another human being, living or dead”. Article 2 excludes any derogation from this prohibition (for example, for reasons of public safety, prevention of criminal offenses, protection of public health, etc.).
The rationale for these absolute prohibitions is grounded in the need to safeguard the identity of the human being, preserve the randomness of their natural genetic combination, which gives them freedom and uniqueness, and prevent their instrumentalization.
The objective of this protocol is to argue that any intervention aimed at cloning human beings must be prohibited and subject to sanctions.
Thus, any intervention whose aim would be to create a human being genetically identical to another, living or dead, is prohibited. The voluntary production of genetically identical human beings would undermine the dignity and integrity of human beings, perceived as members of the human species.
The role of AI in cloning
In China, a new kind of cloning process entirely driven by AI has been created to clone pigs.
In March 2022, healthy piglets were born in China as a result of this process, which is able to function without any human intervention. This system would not only allow the country to solve its pork supply problem but also plays an essential role in the future of agribusiness.
Although this technique is not yet fully mature, researchers can expect a major technological breakthrough once it is perfected.
Researchers have succeeded in obtaining human clone embryos in the laboratory, but for the moment no birth has taken place. This raises legitimate questions about how far researchers are willing to go.
In 2018 in China, the method used for Dolly the ewe was used to give birth for the first time to two primates (crab macaques). Since humans are also primates with similar genetics, technical questions relating to human cloning have raised ethical, legal, and moral problems, leading to numerous debates. Some fundamental questions include whether clones should be considered as full human beings or as a form of reproduction or sub-human, and whether they are equal to us.
M2 Cyberjustice – Promotion 2022-2023