For the third year in a row, United Nations thwarted the passage of a global treaty to ban human cloning due to differing opinions about stem cell research.
During a meeting held Oct. 21 at the U.N. headquarters in New York, the General Assembly narrowly voted to postpone any ban on human cloning until 2005.
Officials debated two resolutions on Costa Rica’s draft calling for a treaty to ban all cloning versus Belgium’s draft calling for a treaty that would ban the cloning of babies, but allow countries to decide on using embryos for scientific research.
The United States sided with Costa Rica and 59 other mostly small nations and concluded that any medical research involving cloning will result in the taking of human life. Their draft to ban all human cloning termed it “unethical and morally reproachable.”
Roberto Tovar, minister of foreign affairs and worship for Costa Rica, said he pushed for a complete ban on all forms of cloning because “cloning reduces the human being to a mere object of industrial production and manipulation.” He warned that women could be exploited as egg-making “factories” and that the international community must not allow human embryos to be destroyed for scientific experiments.
About 130 other nations, including some close U.S. allies, said it should be up to each nation to decide whether to regulate therapeutic cloning.
“No country has the right to seek to impose on the rest of the world a ban on therapeutic cloning, when its own legislature won’t impose the ban nationally,” said British Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry.
Therapeutic cloning refers to cloning certain organs or parts of the body for reconstructive medical use. Reproductive cloning is the cloning of an entire human being. Scientists can use stem cells in both instances, beginning with the same procedure, but resulting in different outcomes.
Many scientists said they want the United Nations to specify between the two areas so that research can continue for therapeutic cloning.
“Rather than ban the thing that we all agree on, we end up with no ban, because the extremists refuse to compromise,” said Larry Goldstein, a stem cell researcher at the University of California, San Diego in the National Scientist Magazine.
In the past four years under President George W. Bush’s administration, there have been several legislative initiatives, such as the Human Cloning Prohibition Act of 2003 that have been passed in Congress.
“I believe all human cloning is wrong, and both forms of cloning ought to be banned, for the following reasons,” Bush said in an April 2002 Senate briefing. “First, anything other than a total ban on human cloning would be unethical. Research cloning would contradict the most fundamental principle of medical ethics, that no human life should be exploited or extinguished for the benefit of another.”
A convention against human cloning, if adopted by the General Assembly, would not be legally binding, but rather a world consensus on cloning practices