The criterion of the same genetic information

The debate on the interpretation of the criterion of the same genetic information is described in the ad hoc recommendation of the German Ethics Council (Deutscher Ethikrat) of 2014. Although the interpretation is controversial among jurists, according to the German Ethics Council it is clear “that the law does not demand the presence of ‘identical’ genetic information” (p. 6).

Deutscher Ethikrat (2014): Stem cell research – new challenges for the ban in cloning and treatment of artificially created germ cells? Ad hoc recommendation. Online Version

The same opinion is represented in the so-called cloning report of the German Federal Government of 1998. There it reads that the prohibition of cloning does not presuppose the emergence of an embryo with 100% accordance with all genetic information. § 6 (1) of the German Embryo Protection Act therefore explicitly speaks of the same, but not of the identical genetic information. Here, legislators argue for a quantitative weighting of the criterion because of which the marginal amount of mitochondrial DNA is not capable to question the same genetic features of the cloned creature (cf. p. 13).

Deutsche Bundesregierung (1998): Bericht zur Frage eines gesetzgeberischen Handlungsbedarfs beim Embryonenschutzgesetz aufgrund der beim Klonen von Tieren angewandten Techniken und der sich abzeichnenden weiteren Entwicklungen. Unterrichtung durch die Bundesregierung, Drucksache des Deutschen Bundestags 13/11263. Online Version (German)

The authors of the legal commentary on the German Embryo Protection Act, Günther, Taupitz and Kaiser, hold a different opinion. On the one hand, they emphasize the individual-specific, important and urgently needed function of the mitochondrial DNA which is responsible for individual metabolism. On the other hand, they draw attention to the fact that two arbitrary human individuals differ in their total genome by only 0.1 %, which is why the determination of the same genetic information cannot depend on a quantitative but only a qualitative evaluation of the discrepancy of the genome (cf. p. 335). They therefore come to the conclusion that the method of somatic cell nuclear transfer de lege lata does not violate § 6 (1) of the German Embryo protection Act. 

Günther, Hans-Ludwig / Taupitz, Jochen / Kaiser, Peter (2014): Embryonenschutzgesetz. Juristischer Kommentar mit medizinisch-naturwissenschaftlichen Grundlagen, 2., neu bearbeitete Auflage, Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 334-336. (German)

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