The U.N. vs. Cloning

Stem cell crackdown


In February 2004, South Korean researchers created the first cloned human embryos by installing nuclei from adult cells into human eggs whose nuclei had been removed. Such "therapeutic cloning" produces embryonic stem cells with genes that are virtually identical to those of the person who donated the adult cell's nucleus. Tissues and cells produced this way would not be rejected by the donor's immune system and thus would be perfect transplants for the donor.

If some countries get their way, the Koreans won't be able to carry out such experiments any more. In September 2004 President Bush strongly endorsed a United Nations resolution, proposed by Costa Rica, for a global treaty that would completely ban both reproductive cloning (that is, cloning to produce a baby) and therapeutic cloning.

The proposed ban was initially supported by 63 nations in the General Assembly, but failed in the face of opposition from the United Kingdom, Japan, South Korea, Australia, India, and Belgium. At the end of November, the Bush Administration could not muster enough votes to pass the resolution. Bernard Siegel, head of the Genetics Policy Institute, a pro-therapeutic cloning lobby, declared victory, saying, "This is a very good result."

The issue isn't dead, though. Italy plans to introduce a compromise resolution in February that would "prohibit any attempts at the creation of human life through cloning processes and any research intended to achieve that aim." For obvious reasons, research proponents want to change "human life" to "human being."