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Resolution is non-binding; reflects divided international opinion.

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NEW YORK | After four years of acrimonious debate, a divided United Nations passed a non-binding resolution that calls on its member nations to ban all human cloning.

Cloning advocates immediately said they would continue their work, while pro-life forces cheered it as a victory of principle and the U.S. bishops’ pro-life office said the resolution will have a "profound impact on human cloning debates around the world, including in the United States."

"The UN has powerfully demonstrated that naked science is not the be-all and end-all of the pursuit of human progress. Morality matters too," said Wesley J. Smith, author of Consumers Guide to a Brave New World, in a statement from Ad Hoc Committee of Research Scientists and Physicians.

The 87-34 vote, with 37 abstentions, on March 8th will likely not stop any of the human cloning endeavors underway worldwide and within the U.S. In November 2004, California voters in voted to allow the creation of a $3 billion stem cell institute. A Congressional bill to ban human cloning, sponsored by Kansas Republican Sen. Sam Brownback, will be introduced again this year in Washington.

Catholic teaching opposes cloning, whether therapeutic–using the embryo for spare parts–or reproductive, making a baby from the exact DNA of its parent. The process is exactly the same in either case; the purpose is the only difference.

British Health Secretary John Reid said Britain would continue to support therapeutic cloning. The United Kingdom’s stem cell research industry remained "open for business," Reid said, according to reporting by the BBC. Reproductive cloning is banned in Britain but not therapeutic cloning.

"Fortunately it is non-binding, which means the U.K. can continue to pursue the promising avenues of research opened up by the use of carefully regulated human therapeutic cloning," said Professor Richard Gardner, chair of the British Royal Society’s working group.

Nevertheless, the resolution is a good step, said Cathy Cleaver Ruse, spokesperson for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Pro-Life Secretariat.

"The U.N.’s new declaration against all forms of human cloning is a powerful statement in favor of the dignity and inviolability of human life," said Cleaver Ruse, bishops’ spokesperson, in a statement. "And it provides no support for so-called ‘therapeutic cloning’ which treats human life as a commodity to be created for experimentation."

On November 19, 2004, the U.N. indefinitely postponed a treaty to ban human cloning that was proposed by Costa Rico, and supported by the U.S. and Germany.

Most of the nations that voted against the March 8th non-binding resolution to ban cloning said they wanted to continue therapeutic cloning, where an embryo is created and the cells extracted while the embryo is destroyed. Many scientists believe the technology will lead to cures for conditions such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s Disease and Lou Gehrig’s disease, although no treatments have been developed.

Most Islamic countries abstained because they did not want to rule out therapeutic cloning. Sen. Brownback, the Senate’s leading opponent of human cloning, commended the U.N. in a statement, saying " Human cloning leads to the creation of a new class of human beings subject to the whims of another class of people. Any time in history when we have subjected one class of human beings to enslavement by another class has been wrong. This time is no different."
The Declaration on Human Cloning was negotiated by a U.N. Working Group in February after attempts to craft a binding global treaty failed last year. Honduras sponsored the resolution and Costa Rica, the U.S., and Italy as well as the Vatican and pro-life groups backed the treaty and then the resolution. Among the countries voting against it were Great Britain, South Korea and China.

The first known case of cloning of a human embryo was announced in February 2004 by South Korean scientists who grew the embryo for seven or eight days before destroying it, they said. Mice, sheep, and cats have been cloned beginning with Dolly the sheep in Britain in 1996.

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