A year after debate in the United Nations’ legal committee over an international ban on cloning ended in stalemate, the UN is again trying again to thrash out an agreement. The delegates are deeply divided, with about 60 countries led by Costa Rica opposing the creation of human embryos for research and 20 countries led by Belgium supporting it. There is unanimous support for a ban on reproductive cloning. The debate is expected to last for two days. Secretary General Kofi Annan has expressed his personal support for therapeutic cloning, but insists that “it’s an issue for the member states to decide”.
It is difficult to predict the outcome of this week’s deliberations. A decision could be deferred or the two sides could abandon the idea of a consensus, leaving countries free to regulate human cloning themselves without reference to an international covenant. In any case, it is unlikely that countries like Britain, China, South Korea, Japan, Finland and the Netherlands, which currently allow regulated therapeutic cloning, would sign a treaty which banned it.
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