UN committee begins talks on global treaty against human cloning

25 February 2002

A United Nations committee today began discussions on the sensitive and often divisive issue of elaborating an international ban on cloning human beings.

A United Nations committee today began discussions on the sensitive and often divisive issue of elaborating an international ban on cloning human beings.

“The possibility of human reproductive cloning poses dire consequences for humanity,” said Peter Tomka of Slovakia, the Chairman of the General Assembly Ad Hoc Committee on an International Convention against the Reproductive Cloning of Human Beings. “The time has come for the international community to consider the feasibility of an international agreement providing a coordinated response to such medical and scientific advances.”

“Let us be clear that this will be no easy task, and that obtaining a comprehensive appreciation for the nuances of the issue will take time and some effort,” he told the assembled delegates before opening the floor to experts on genetics and bioethics who offered a range of views on the issue.

In setting up the committee by adopting a resolution last December, the General Assembly said life sciences are opening prospects for health improvements, but termed current research on human cloning “an attack on the human dignity of the individual.”

There is no overall consensus on the issue, although a number of countries are undertaking efforts to regulate human cloning. Some nations support expanding the proposed convention’s scope to include banning therapeutic cloning, the production of embryos as suppliers of specialized stem cells, and the use of embryos in medical therapy. Others are calling for a more neutral title for the convention, arguing that an outright ban might drive the research underground, making it more difficult to regulate.

The initiative for a ban on human reproductive cloning was first proposed by France and Germany last August. They asserted that while only a small number of researchers or scientific institutions had the technical capacity to perform such operations, there was no doubt that the practice would have an impact on the entire human family. In response, they called for the treaty’s elaboration under UN auspices.

 

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