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Wednesday, 4 December 2002
Page: 7176

Senator HARRADINE (4:31 PM) —I will be very brief, because it is almost five o'clock. We have this and two other matters to deal with by then, as I understand it.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Senator Knowles)—That is correct, Senator.

Senator HARRADINE —The issue is that this legislation prohibits the export of embryos; the bill, though, allows for the export of embryonic stem cells. As was explained by the minister previously, they must get the approval of the donors if stem cells are to be derived. The fact of the matter is that the donors do not have any control over where the stem cells go. They have control over the embryo but once they give consent to the dissection of the embryo for the purpose of extracting embryonic stem cells they have no way of having control over them. Under those circumstances, the extraction may take place and those embryonic stem cells may be sent overseas.

The other night, the issue was whether or not a human embryo could be derived from that embryonic stem cell. If it is the case that an embryo can be derived from the treatment of an embryonic stem cell, that is using that embryonic stem cell to create a clone of the donor couple who gave the approval. In the debate the other night, the minister was asked whether or not that was possible. I am asking a question, but before the response I want to let you know this: the National Health and Medical Research Council, in paragraph 2.20 of the Scientific, ethical and regulatory considerations relevant to cloning of human embryos report, which was sent to Dr Michael Wooldridge on 16 December 1998, says, `Yes, there are examples where embryonic stem cells have been placed on a bed of tetraploid embryos. This happened in the mouse example and, yes, a mouse embryo developed and then developed into a mouse.'

Senator Boswell —And a monkey.

Senator HARRADINE —And a marmoset monkey, as my friend here said. That was stated in paragraph 2.20 of the NHMRC document. I am very surprised that the other night the minister was told something contrary to this, presumably by the NHMRC, when in their own document they have said that this is a possibility. It has not occurred with humans to the present moment, but what happens to a stem cell donated by a couple here if it is able to be developed in a country that does not have the ban on cloning that we have? You could have a clone of the donor couple. The question is: should that be allowed? Clearly, in my view, we should not allow that. As Senator Boswell says, it really undermines the purpose of the bill that was adopted unanimously—that is, the Prohibition of Human Cloning Bill 2002, which bans the cloning of human embryos.