UN votes to ban human cloning

By a vote of 84 in favor, 34 against and 37 abstaining, with 36 absent, the UN today approved a declaration calling on all UN Member States to ban all forms of human cloning, including cloning for medical treatment, as incompatible with human dignity and the protection of human life.

While in general agreement, some delegates said they opposed banning therapeutic cloning. The Declaration, negotiated by a Working Group last month, also banned "genetic engineering techniques that may be contrary to human dignity" and called for a prevention of the exploitation of women and adequate protection for human life in the application of life sciences. The Declaration has been welcomed by many as a clear expression of the ethical norms that should guide scientific research.

South Africa abstained because it believes therapeutic cloning aims at protecting human life and is, therefore, inconsistent with the Declaration. It will continue to control therapeutic cloning strictly. The United States, which voted for the Declaration, supports a total ban on human cloning. It added, however, it does not prohibit the development of cell and tissue-based therapies based on research involving cloning technology to produce DNA molecules, organs, plants, tissues, cells (other than human embryos), or animals (other than humans).They believe that nations should "actively pursue the potential medical and scientific benefits of these scientific methods, which have already enabled researchers to develop innovative drugs to treat diseases."

The United Kingdom, the Russian Federation, France and India, have not reached a consensus on banning reproductive cloning and want to keep their options open on therapeutic cloning. Britain who voted against,echoed the views of a number of speakers, in saying an opportunity had been missed to adopt a convention prohibiting reproductive cloning because of the intransigence of those who failed to recognize that other sovereign States might want to permit strictly controlled applications of therapeutic cloning. The Declaration was a non-binding political statement, which would not affect Britain's position on the issue.

China felt the prohibitions in the text might be "misunderstood" as covering all forms of cloning and the Declaration had failed to include the different positions of delegates on ethical, moral and religious concerns; it would maintain strict controls over therapeutic cloning.

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