In order to prevent a divisive vote on the long-debated International Convention Against the Reproductive Cloning of Human Beings, United Nations delegates moved last month to prepare a non-binding "Declaration on Human Cloning" rather than a formal treaty.
The proposed declaration calls for efforts to "prohibit any attempts to create human life through cloning processes and any research intended to achieve that aim," and calls on member states to adopt national legislation to prohibit "applications of genetic engineering techniques that may be contrary to human dignity."
The proposal was offered by Italy in an attempt to bring closure to the debate between the countries, led by the United States and Costa Rica, that support international bans on all forms of human cloning, and those, led by Belgium and the United Kingdom, that support bans on reproductive cloning but wish to allow the use of cloning techniques for research and possible therapeutic applications.
The Italian resolution will form the basis for discussions of a working group that will meet on February 14, 15 and 18, with the intent of producing a Declaration that can be signed by all U.N. member countries.
The fact remains, however, that serious differences exist among countries and powerful constituencies regarding the proper limits of human genetic research and modification. The proposed Declaration, in itself, will do little to resolve these.