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Therapeutic cloning cannot be regulated internationally

31 August 2004
By Dr Jess Buxton
Genetics Editor, BioNews
Appeared in BioNews 273
This weeks BioNews reports on renewed attempts by supporters of therapeutic cloning to stop the research being banned worldwide. The United Nations (UN) will again be considering two competing resolutions on cloning when it meets this October: one banning all uses of the technology, and one which would ban human reproductive cloning, but leave the regulation of therapeutic cloning down to individual countries. Originally proposed as a deterrent to 'cowboy cloners' such as the Raelians, Panos Zavos and Severino Antinori, the proposed UN treaty on cloning could potentially end up also banning embryo cloning for research purposes. How did this happen?

The proposal for a UN treaty on human reproductive cloning came from France and Germany, in 2001. But by the time the legal committee considered the proposed ban in 2003, an alternative proposal had been put forward, sponsored by Costa Rica and supported by the US. It called for a total ban on all uses of SCNT (somatic cell nuclear transfer) technology, the cloning technique used to create Dolly the sheep. This ban would encompass therapeutic cloning, the proposed use of cells from cloned early embryo cells to develop new disease treatments. A third resolution to delay any decision on the issue for two years, backed by a coalition of Islamic nations, eventually won by a narrow margin. However, this was later reduced to one year, following a last minute effort by supporters of the total ban to force a second vote on cloning.

The US is pushing hard for an international ban on all forms of cloning, yet it has not banned either therapeutic cloning research (except for federally funded scientists) or reproductive cloning at the national level. In the US, as in many countries worldwide, religious beliefs concerning the status of the embryo have made this area a highly controversial one to regulate. Given this diversity of opinion, it is surely impossible that a worldwide consensus on therapeutic cloning research could ever be reached.

Even if a total UN cloning ban were imposed, scientists in countries such as the UK, where tightly regulated therapeutic cloning research is already permitted, have already said they will not sign such a treaty. Surely it would be better, as Richard Gardner of the UK's Royal Society said this week, to pass a UN convention that all countries would endorse. And, as he also said, a clear distinction by the UN between reproductive and therapeutic cloning would provide countries with 'invaluable guidance in passing effective legislation'.

Continued attempts to regulate therapeutic cloning research at an international or even European level are likely to end in stalemate. The only winners in this situation would be individuals bent on dangerous and irresponsible attempts at cloning human beings: the very people the UN is trying to stop.

19 November 2007 - by Antony Starza-Allen 
The United Nation's Institute of Advanced Studies has issued a report containing a stark warning to the rest of the world: introduce global legislation to prohibit reproductive cloning or prepare to consider laws that protect cloned individuals from potential discrimination, prejudice and abuse. The report, entitled 'Is...
10 March 2005 - by BioNews 
The United Nations (UN) has adopted a non-binding declaration that prohibits 'all forms of human cloning inasmuch as they are incompatible with human dignity and the protection of human life'. The ban was passed by the general assembly on Tuesday, by 84 votes to 34 with 37 abstentions. Many countries...
21 February 2005 - by BioNews 
The United Nations (UN) has approved a declaration calling for a ban on human cloning for both reproductive and research purposes. The assembly's legal committee voted 71 to 35 in favour of the non-binding statement, backed by the Bush administration, with 43 abstentions. The declaration will now pass to the...
21 February 2005 - by Dr Jess Buxton 
In this week's BioNews, we report on the latest instalment in the ongoing saga of the United Nation (UN)'s deliberations on cloning. What started out, in 2001, as a proposed treaty to ban human reproductive cloning has ended up as a non-binding declaration calling on nations to ban all...
22 November 2004 - by BioNews 
The Legal Committee of the General Assembly of the United Nations (UN) last week abandoned proposals to adopt an international convention on human cloning. A proposal led by the US and Costa Rica, which would have meant an international treaty banning all forms of human cloning, including for medical research...
31 August 2004 - by BioNews 
The UK's Royal Society and 67 other science academies around the world are urging the United Nations (UN) to ban human reproductive cloning, whilst leaving individual countries to regulate therapeutic cloning. However, the US is pushing for a global ban on all uses of the technology, which could be introduced...
31 August 2004 - by BioNews 
Controversial US fertility doctor Panos Zavos has made more unsubstantiated claims of limited success in human cloning experiments. According to a report in the UK's Mail on Sunday, Zavos says he has created embryo clones of an 11 year-old girl and a 33 year-old man, who both died in road...
10 December 2003 - by BioNews 
The United Nations will reconsider a treaty to ban human cloning in one year's time, rather than the two-year delay agreed upon by its legal committee recently. The General Assembly arrived at the consensus this week, following a last minute plan by supporters of a total ban on cloning technology...
30 September 2002 - by Juliet Tizzard 
This week's BioNews reports on a United Nations subcommittee, currently meeting in New York City, which is seeking to pass a worldwide ban on human reproductive cloning. Since the announcement of the birth of Dolly the cloned sheep in February 1997, many nations, as well as regional and international organisations...
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