Bypassing a divisive vote on the question of an international convention on human cloning, the United Nations General Assembly's legal committee has decided to take up the issue next year in the form of a declaration that would lack the legal force of a treaty.
Last Friday, the Assembly's Sixth Committee endorsed a draft resolution containing a declaration on human cloning, which will form the basis of discussions in a working group scheduled to meet on 14, 15 and 18 February 2005.
Introduced by Italy, the resolution calls on Member States to adopt and implement national legislation banning attempts to create human life through cloning and ensure respect for human life in the application of science, particularly by barring the exploitation of women.
The text also calls on countries to prohibit genetic engineering techniques contrary to human dignity.
After the resolution was adopted, Committee Chairman Mohamed Bennouna of Morocco describe the issue of cloning as a "highly charged one," saying that it would have been "damaging for the Committee to not come together on an issue with such grave consequence for humanity."
Prior to the adoption of the resolution, wide divisions continued to persist on a text calling for an outright treaty. While both sides would ban human reproductive cloning, the draft text sponsored by Costa Rica and others called for the Assembly to urge states to ban research aimed at cloning and all genetic engineering that adversely impacted on respect for human dignity.
The text sponsored by Belgium and others would allow for so-called therapeutic cloning but calls for national legislation to ensure that results did not advance reproductive cloning.