U.N. Scheduled to Vote on Total Human Cloning Ban

The General Assembly panel of the United Nations is headed for an up-or-down vote on a human cloning ban, introduced by Costa Rica and backed by the United States, after the possibility of diplomats reaching a compromise on the proposed treaty appears unlikely.

"The negotiations are continuing, but a lot of people seem to be resigned to a vote. It seems there is no possibility to reach an agreement," one diplomat told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Negotiations on the human cloning ban began before the Nov. 2 elections when stem cell research was a big issue. The Costa Rica-proposed treaty would ban all human cloning including reproductive, therapeutic, and research cloning such as stem cell research.

Most countries in the U.N. agree on a ban on reproductive cloning, in which the cloned embryo is implanted in the uterus to produce a human being, but they differ in terms of therapeutic of research cloning.

Britain, Japan and other nations have backed a Belgian proposal that would ban reproductive cloning but allow the Legal Committee adopt a declaration of principle leaving policy decisions on research cloning to individual governments.

Muslim countries want the vote postponed since international consensus on the issue has not been reached. According to diplomats who support postponement, the divisive stances on the issue have not changed since last year when the Legal Committee, the group which writes treaties, voted to postpone the drafting of a human cloning ban.

Critics of the ban, mostly scientists, argue restricting research cloning would impede medical advances using stem cell research to develop cures and treatments to diseases.

Supporters of a total human cloning ban, including the Bush Administration and pro-life groups, say harvesting stem cells from cloned embryos would result in the embryos’ destruction and kill the life of a preborn child.

During debates in October, the United States, Kenya, and Nigeria presented an additional concern if therapeutic cloning were permitted for medical research. U.S. Special Adviser Susan Moore said it could create a market for the sale of human eggs, a market in which poor women could be exploited.

The U.N. total human cloning ban would not affect a recently approved $3 billion California-initiative to fund stem cell research, say researchers, but could possibly hinder collaboration from international scientists.