US Pushes for Worldwide Ban on Stem Cell Research
The US and Costa Rica are leading an effort to pass a United Nations treaty banning all forms of human cloning, including stem cell research that scientists believe has the potential to treat serious illnesses such as Parkinson's disease. Wired News reports, a vote on the Costa Rican introduced treaty failed by a vote of 80-79 in the UN legal committee on November 6. Instead UN members decided to pass a motion to postpone the issue for two years that was introduced by Iran on behalf of the 57-nation Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), the Washington Post recounted. The Costa Rican ambassador reintroduced their draft cloning ban treaty on Friday and plans to call for another vote sometime today or early tomorrow.
Having failed to pass such a provision through the US Congress, the Bush administration is now leading the campaign alongside Costa Rica to pass an expansive cloning ban with worldwide ramifications, Reuters reports. Their crusade is bolstered by strong support and lobbying pressure from many predominantly Catholic countries and US anti-abortion forces. A Belgium resolution, co-sponsored by France, Great Britain, Japan, Germany, and China, calls for a ban on human cloning for reproductive purposes only. In the Belgium resolution, whether or not cloning cells for medical research purposes should be outlawed would be left to the discretion of each nation.
Top stem cell researchers in the world, led by the Genetics Policy Institute, are trying to draw public attention to the issue so the UN is not only hearing from right-wing forces, Wired News reports. They are concerned that a potentially promising field of medical research is being threatened by politicians with little scientific knowledge. Alan Leshner, who heads the American Association for the Advancement of Science, told Reuters that the broad ban championed by the US and Costa Rica would ban important research "efforts to use cloned embryonic stem cells to try and generate healthy tissue, or to treat degenerative diseases such as Parkinson's."
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Media Resources: Reuters 12/8/03; Washington Post 12/6/03; Wired News 12/5/03; Kaiser Daily Reproductive Health Report 12/8/03; CORDIS News 12/8/03