Foes of total human cloning ban at the UN on the defensive

Foes of total human cloning ban at the UN on the defensive

Foes of total human cloning ban at the UN on the defensive

As momentum builds at the United
Nations for an international ban on all forms of human cloning,
parties seeking a partial ban in order to carry out destructive
research on cloned human embryos have adopted a number of new
tactics to influence a vote they seem increasingly likely to

The UN debate pits two opposing
positions, those countries that seek a total ban on all forms of
human cloning, and those countries that seek a partial ban that
would outlaw “reproductive cloning,” cloning for
life-birth purposes, but not “therapeutic cloning.”
Therapeutic cloning is the creation of cloned human embryos in
order to use them -- and destroy them -- for the purpose of
medical research.

The total ban, introduced by Costa
Rica and strongly supported by countries like the United States,
Spain, Italy, the Vatican and the Philippines, has now been
co-sponsored by 52 countries. Many other countries have signaled
privately that they will support a total ban when a vote is

As the debate has proceeded over
the past two weeks, countries in which therapeutic cloning is
legal, even government-financed, such as the United Kingdom,
Singapore and China, have found themselves increasingly isolated.
Only 18 countries, the few countries in which therapeutic cloning
is legal plus a handful of others, have co-sponsored the partial

Even France and Germany seem to
feel pressure to distance themselves from the countries which
perform cloning research. In fact, France and Germany did not
even co-sponsor the partial ban resolution, even though they have
been lobbying for a partial ban for over a year.

In response to this momentum for
the total ban, a group of pro-therapeutic cloning scientists and
lawyers have made a highly unusual request, asking the United
Nations to have the International Court of Justice in the Hague
intervene in the debate. The group wants the Court of Justice to
guide the deliberations through the issuance of an
“advisory opinion.” It appears likely that the group
believes the Court of Justice will condemn reproductive cloning,
but not therapeutic cloning. One of the
members of the group told Reuters that “It is urgent that
the public understand and differentiate between the cloning
charlatans and those scientists doing critical research that
might lead to cures of deadly diseases.”

Another tactic appears to be to
portray the debate as stymied because the countries seeking a
total ban are unwilling to compromise. According to Reuters,
“A group of 40 [sic] nations, led by Costa Rica and the US
and assembled with the help of US-based anti-abortion groups,
insisted on a treaty banning both the cloning of humans and
‘therapeutic’ or ‘experimental’
cloning.”, thereby resulting in “deadlocked”
negotiations that are “headed for collapse.”

However, far from being
“deadlocked,” negotiations appear to be heading in
favour of a comprehensive ban, as more and more countries
co-sponsor the Coast Rican proposal. There will be two more days
of debate, scheduled for October 20 and 21, after which a vote
will most likely occur.

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FRIDAY FAX October 10, 2003 Vol 6, No 42