March 8, 2005
Divided U.N. Seeks Human Cloning Ban
UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- The U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday approved a nonbinding resolution that seeks to ban human cloning, capping a four-year struggle that saw governments abandon efforts for stronger action because their divisions were too deep.
From the beginning, the debate hinged on whether to outlaw all cloning or permit cloning for research. Nations that sought a total ban always had more votes, but never enough to achieve broad consensus or a binding worldwide treaty.
The final resolution urges member states to adopt legislation "to prohibit all forms of human cloning in as much as they are incompatible with human dignity and the protection of human life."
The document, which has no legal force, passed by 84 to 34, with 37 abstentions. The United States was joined by many African, Arab and Latin American states in voting for it; mostly European and Asian countries opposed.
In speeches after the vote, several nations including Britain, South Korea, and the Netherlands flatly rejected the resolution. They promised to push ahead with therapeutic cloning, which scientists believe may lead to new treatments for diseases.
"The declaration voted on today is a weak, nonbinding political statement that does not reflect anything approaching consensus within the General Assembly nor will it affect the United Kingdom's strong support of stem cell research," Britain's U.N. Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry said.
Jones Parry used his speech to remind colleagues that his government had announced about US$2 billion (euro1.5 billion) in funding over the next three years for stem cell and other research.
Nations opposed to any cloning, which included the United States, lamented the unwillingness of supporters of therapeutic cloning to come onboard.
"In reality it is surprising and sad that at the beginning of the 21st century, certain delegations have objected to a text which calls upon states to adequately protect human life," Costa Rica's U.N. Ambassador Bruno Stagno told the assembly.
The debate over cloning began in 2001 with proposals by France and Germany for treaty to ban reproductive cloning, an idea that has near universal national support. But governments led by the United States and Costa Rica sought to add language banning therapeutic cloning as well.
President George W. Bush went before the U.N. General Assembly in September urging the world to back a total ban.
After repeated delays, diplomats working in the U.N. legal committee gave up the push for the worldwide treaty in November. Instead, they began working toward the nonbinding political statement, hoping to achieve broad consensus.
Despite still more negotiation, the two sides could never agree on language. In the end, nations that opposed all human cloning decided to sacrifice consensus to get the language they sought and called a vote.
They hope the document will help push toward stronger action in the future.
In February, the U.S. ambassador in the committee that worked out language for the document said the statement was an important step "to achieving a culture of life" and called for more action by national legislatures around the globe.
The declaration adopted Tuesday also demands that countries "adopt the measures necessary to prohibit the application of genetic engineering techniques that may be contrary to human dignity."
Member states are also asked to take measures to prevent the exploitation of women in the application of life sciences."