For its Fifth Session, the International Bioethics Committee of UNESCO (IBC), in agreement with the Director-General, has decided to broaden its horizons.

In view of the role played by financial partners and major centres and research laboratories in the production and dissemination of scientific knowledge, and because of the increasing importance they place on ethical issues, the IBC will associate them more closely in its reflections. Thus, at the fifth session, a round table will consider the ethical aspects concerning the status of scientific information, its production and its dissemination.

Furthermore, the IBC will examine a report on "Women's Health, Bioethics and Human Rights". It will also discuss the ethical and legal issues raised by the processing and exploitation of genetic information collected in data banks. Finally, at the request of the Director-General of UNESCO (see UNESCOPRESSE NÁ 97-29), the IBC will cover animal biotechnology and study, in particular, the problems raised by cloning and transgenic technology.


The Pluralist Parliament of Albania approved, in December 1995, the LAW FOR THE CONTROL OF BLOOD AND TRANSPLANTS and the LAW ON ABORTION. More recently, in March 1996, it adopted the LAW FOR MENTAL HEALTH which, for the first time in this field, stressed the principle of respect of the patient's consent and respect of his or her autonomy.


The Group of Advisers on the Ethical Implications of Biotechnology (GAEIB) of the European Commission adopted, on 25 September 1996, the OPINION N° 8 ON THE ETHICAL ASPECTS OF PATENTING INVENTIONS INVOLVING ELEMENTS OF HUMAN ORIGIN. The GAEIB underlined that the human body as well as its elements “do not constitute patentable inventions”. Likewise, it affirmed that “the granting of a patent is acceptable only if ... the identification of the function attached to the human gene, or a partial human gene sequence allows new possibilities (for instance the production of new drugs)”.


The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe adopted, on 19 November 1996, the latest version of the DRAFT CONVENTION FOR THE PROTECTION OF HUMAN RIGHTS AND DIGNITY OF THE HUMAN BEING WITH REGARD TO THE APPLICATION OF BIOLOGY AND MEDICINE : CONVENTION ON HUMAN RIGHTS AND BIOMEDICINE, prepared by the Standing Committee on Bioethics.


The Russian Parliament adopted, on 5 June 1996, the FEDERAL LAW on State regulation in the field of genetic engineering. This law, which deals in particular with the protection of the environment and biosecurity, does not concern the use and applications of genetic engineering to human tissues and cells.


The French National Ethics Consultative Committee for Health and Life Sciences (CCNE) published, on 3 April 1996, the OPINIONS N°49 AND 50 respectively on CONTRACEPTION CONCERNING MENTALLY DISABLED PERSONS and STERILISATION AS A MEANS OF ULTIMATE CONTRACEPTION.


The participants at the first Latin-American Meeting on Bioethics and the Human Genome (Manzanillo, Colima, Mexico, 9-12 October 1996), organized by the Latin-American Programme on the Human Genome (PLAGH), adopted, on 12 October 1996, the MANZANILLO DECLARATION. In particular, Article 8 of the Declaration announced the creation of the Iberian-American Network on Bioethics and the Human Genome", in order to promote the dissemination of information on the social, ethical and legal aspects of human genome research.


The Organization of African Unit (OAU), at its thirty-second session from 8 to 10 July 1996 in Yaoundé (Cameroon), adopted the RESOLUTION ON BIOETHICS by which the Organization pledges in particular “to set up consultative bodies at both country and inter-African levels to promote the exchange of experience obtained, among such bodies ...”.


The most up-to-date MAP OF THE HUMAN GENOME, product of the Human Genome Project, is available, since October 1996, on Internet at the following address: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/science96/. The map will provide the public with a continuously updated window of progress as mapping of the human genome unfolds.


THE GENE LETTER, a new electronic newsletter, was established in July 1996 to inform consumers and professionals about advances in genetics and to encourage debate about emerging medical, ethical, legal policy dilemmas. The Gene Letter Website address is: www.geneletter.org.


In its RESPONSE TO THE THIRD REPORT OF THE HOUSE OF COMMONS SELECT COMMITTEE ON SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY (session 1995-96), presented to Parliament in June 1996, the Government of the United Kingdom has decided to establish a new Human Genetics Advisory Commission whose task will be to review scientific progress at the frontiers of human genetics and to report on issues that can be expected to have broad social, ethical and/or economic consequences. For further information:

HMSO Publications Centre
PO Box 276 - London SWS 5DT - United Kingdom
Tel.: (44 171) 873 00 11 - Fax: (44 171) 873 82 00


According the Ministerial Decree n° 1791 of the Ministry of Education, the Arab Republic of Egypt has recently created à NATIONAL BIOETHICS COMMITTEE, composed of twenty-three members from various scientific fields, in particular medicine, agriculture, physics, pharmacy, law and social sciences.