October 21, 2004


UNITED NATIONS - Britain staunchly defended the right to use human embryos for medical research while the Vaticanbacked a complete ban on human cloning as U.N. members Thursday began two days of debate on the highly contentious issue.

The U.N. General Assembly's legal committee will meet again Friday to discuss two competing resolutions:

Costa Rica's draft calls for a treaty banning all cloning. Belgium's draft calls for a treaty banning the cloning of babies but allowing countries to decide on using embryos for research, which many scientists believe may lead to new treatments for diseases.

Britain's U.N. ambassador Emyr Jones Parry said his country was among the first to ban human reproductive cloning when it passed such an act in 2001.

"However, we cannot support any attempt to ban or unreasonably restrict cloning for research purposes, known as therapeutic cloning. We are convinced that therapeutic cloning holds enormous promise for new treatments for serious degenerative conditions that are currently incurable," he said.

Good for the British -- though, in fact, I don't support a ban on reproductive cloning, either. Meanwhile, Kofi Annan actually gets it right:

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan on Thursday fired another shot across the bow of US President George W. Bush in backing cloning for medical research, which the United States wants to ban worldwide.

The announcement by Annan, a regular critic of Bush policy, came as the UN's legal committee opened debate on human cloning with hopes of drafting an international treaty to address the divisive issue.

I wonder whether this is on the merits, or just another anti-Bush move? Regardless, Annan's right, and Bush is wrong, on this one. Here's a column I wrote on the subject a while back.

UPDATE: Nikita Demosthenes says I'm wrong about cloning.