UN committee approves international declaration against human cloning

21 February 2005

An international declaration calling for a ban on human cloning has been approved in a contentious vote by the main United Nations Legal Committee.

The “Sixth Committee” voted 71 in favor to 35 against – with 43 abstentions – to pass the text along to the General Assembly for formal adoption. The declaration calls for countries to prohibit all forms of human cloning inasmuch as they are incompatible with human dignity and the protection of human life.

The United Nations Declaration on Human Cloning was approved after earlier efforts failed to elaborate a binding international treaty on the practice.

In its resolution, the Sixth Committee also called for the adoption of all measures necessary to protect human life in the application of life sciences, and to prohibit the application of genetic engineering techniques that may be contrary to human dignity.

While there was widespread agreement over the need to ban human reproductive cloning, the issue was hotly debated. Friday's vote was no exception.

Countries were sharply divided over the controversial practice, with some representatives arguing that it should be subject to a total international ban and others voicing support for therapeutic applications of the science.

Belgium, which had argued in favor of allowing therapeutic cloning, said it would not be bound by a text approved by such a narrow vote. Finland also voiced regret that there had been no consensus decision.

The Organization of Islamic States also said the Committee should have acted by consensus.

Singapore said the debate had been hijacked by those bent on banning even therapeutic cloning.

Others, including Costa Rica, hailed the vote as an ethical step forward while Committee Chairman Mohamed Bennouna of Morocco welcomed the text, “with its weaknesses and strengths.”