Bum Rap for Cloning in Norway

On Friday, the Norwegian Parliament passed a law banning cloning of humans and other "highly developed organisms." The law, which would have blocked the cloning of Dolly herself, may be the farthest reaching cloning ban now on the books. The measure has alarmed some Norwegian scientists, who say its hasty preparation and passage reflects the country's deep suspicion of biotechnology.

Norway, like other countries, has been abuzz with the ethical implications of cloning ever since Scottish researchers announced last month that they had cloned a sheep. But the report awakened special fears in Norway, says Jon Henrik Laake of the University of Oslo's anatomy department: "Many in the public see genome research as sinister."

Seizing on this unease, a deputy from Norway's Christian People's Party introduced the anticloning bill early last week. In its ensuing news coverage, Oslo's Evening Post could identify just one researcher whose research would be jeopardized: Stig Omholt of the Norwegian Agriculture University, who clones bee embryos. Omholt, not surprisingly, criticized the legislation. Nevertheless, Parliament passed the bill by an 88-to-2 margin, and Norway's Administration now must write regulations to implement it.

Laake and other Norwegian scientists view the cloning law and its lack of input from scientists as another in a series of slights. In addition, he says, the country spends roughly 1.7% of its gross domestic product on science, while neighboring Sweden spends about twice that. Taken together, Laake says, "it just goes to show the low standing of scientists in Norway."