The United Nations General Assembly today approved a non-binding declaration calling on all UN Member States to ban all forms of human cloning, including cloning for medical treatment, as incompatible with human dignity and the protection of human life.
By a vote of 84 in favour, 34 against and 37 abstaining, with 36 absent, the Assembly acted on the recommendation of its Legal, or Sixth, Committee to adopt the text, called the United Nations Declaration on Human Cloning. But some delegates said they opposed banning therapeutic cloning.
The Declaration, negotiated by a Working Group last month, also banned "genetic engineering techniques that may be contrary to human dignity." It called on States "to prevent the exploitation of women in the application of life sciences" and "to protect adequately human life in the application of life sciences."
Those who voted for the Declaration welcomed it as a clear expression of the ethical norms that should guide scientific research.
South Africa, which abstained, said it understood therapeutic cloning to be aimed at protecting human life and not to be, therefore, inconsistent with the Declaration. It would continue to control therapeutic cloning strictly.
The United States, which voted for the Declaration, said its Government's position remained the same as it had recently expressed in the Sixth Committee last year.
A US Government position paper said it supported a total ban on human cloning. It added, however, "Any ban on human cloning should explicitly state that it does not prohibit the development of cell and tissue-based therapies based on research involving cloning technology to produce DNA molecules, organs, plants, tissues, cells (other than human embryos), or animals (other than humans).
"We believe that nations should actively pursue the potential medical and scientific benefits of these scientific methods, which have already enabled researchers to develop innovative drugs to treat diseases."
Some other countries, including the United Kingdom, the Russian Federation, France and India, regretted that there had been no consensus on banning reproductive cloning since they might want to keep their options open on therapeutic cloning.
The British delegate, who voted against, said the Assembly had missed an opportunity to adopt a convention prohibiting reproductive cloning because of the intransigence of those who failed to recognize that other sovereign States might want to permit strictly controlled applications of therapeutic cloning.
Echoing the views of a number of speakers, he said the Declaration was a non-binding political statement, which would not affect his country's position on the issue.
China, which voted against, said the prohibitions in the text might be "misunderstood" as covering all forms of cloning and the Declaration had failed to include the different positions of delegates on ethical, moral and religious concerns.
It noted that it would maintain strict controls over therapeutic cloning.