General Assembly legal committee resumes debate on anti-cloning text

21 October 2004

The United Nations General Assembly’s legal committee today resumed debate on two competing draft resolutions that would ban all reproductive cloning.

Both versions under discussion in the Sixth Committee ban all human cloning but differ on language concerning the use of human cells for purposes other than reproduction.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan today said he supported experimental cloning. “The issue is before the Member States and I think it is an important issue. Obviously it’s an issue for [them] to decide. But as an individual and in my personal view, I think I will go for therapeutic cloning,” he said.

In introducing the draft sponsored by Costa Rica, which also forbids the experimental use of embryonic stem cells, representative Roberto Tovar said that the development of biotechnology offered great possibilities, but human cloning for either the purpose of creating identical copies or for scientific experimentation required the utmost caution.

Experimental cloning was unnecessary, as adult stem cells could cure the same diseases as embryonic ones, he said. And allowing experimental cloning would create the conditions for unscrupulous scientists to attempt reproductive cloning.

The resolution he was introducing reaffirmed that human cloning was incompatible with respect for human dignity, Mr. Tovar said, and expressed the Assembly’s intention to promote scientific research in the areas of biology and genetics in a way that respected human rights.

The draft sponsored by Belgium, that country’s representative, Marc Pecsteen, said, did not exclude the possibility for a country to forbid all forms of human cloning and a future international treaty explicitly foresaw that possibility. The draft was also not a proposal in favour of therapeutic cloning but only acknowledged the differences of opinion on that question.

The text contained a mandate for a convention that would cover reproductive cloning and other forms of human cloning simultaneously so as to meet the wishes of delegations to treat the two questions in the framework of a single instrument, he said. Reproductive cloning would be banned without exception.

As to other forms of cloning, three options were offered: they could be banned, submitted to a moratorium, or regulated through national legislation that submitted research to strict controls to avoid misuse, Mr. Pecsteen said. The nature of those controls could be elaborated in the treaty.

Last year the Committee voted by a slim margin to delay bringing the two drafts to the full Assembly for two years.


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