UN to vote on cloning tomorrow

Costa Rica and 63 other countries are for a total ban. Other UN members want human cloning for research purposes. Vatican says no to an ethically irresponsible science.

New York (AsiaNews) – The United Nations General Assembly will vote tomorrow on a Costa Rica-sponsored comprehensive ban on human cloning. The proposal submitted by the Central American country is backed by 63 other member states. By contrast, Belgium's proposal to ban reproductive cloning but allow human cloning for research purposes is supported by only 20 members.

The vote had originally been scheduled for last October but was postponed because of the US elections. The victory of US President Bush—who is strongly opposed to cloning—helps anti-cloning countries.

Some nations have tried to broker a compromise between the two groups, saying they want the UN to adopt a statement of principle rather than a total ban on human cloning for research purposes. However, Costa Rica and its allies have rejected the suggestion arguing that it would allow scientists to continue using human cloning to create and destroy embryos in the name of scientific research.
Kenya, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia joined the US. Their representatives said that "human cloning for research destroys human life". Norway, Italy and many South American countries, not mention the Holy See, are in favour of the cloning ban.

The Vatican UN envoy, Mgr Celestino Migliore, laid out the position of the Catholic Church. "The choice," he said, "was not between science and ethics, but rather between a science that is ethically responsible and one that is not.

Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and the Philippines are among the Asian countries that back Costa Rica's position.

In response to those who differentiate between 'reproductive' cloning from 'therapeutic' or 'experimental' cloning, Bush administration spokeswoman Susan Moore said that "a ban that differentiates between human reproductive and experimental cloning would essentially authorize the creation of a human embryo for the purpose of destroying it, thus elevating the value of research and experimentation above that of a human life". She added that "the international community must act now [. . .] to send a clear message that human cloning is an affront to human dignity that cannot be tolerated. Human cloning for research would create a market for the sale of human eggs in which poor women could be exploited".

By contrast, Sir Emyr Jones Parry, British UN envoy, said: "We have every confidence that the United Nations will reject the Costa Rican proposal that seeks to impose a single dogmatic and inflexible viewpoint on the rest of the world and overturn decisions which have been legitimately taken by other national governments. But the UK government wishes to make it clear that should the United Nations proceed to develop a convention banning both therapeutic and reproductive human cloning, we would not participate in the negotiation of such a convention and we would not sign up to it. Therapeutic cloning research will continue to be permitted in the UK."

The Belgian proposal is supported by Asian countries like China, Thailand, Singapore, South Korea, Japan, Cambodia and Turkey. (LF)