.- The Vatican has backed a treaty that completely bans human cloning as United Nations members began two days of debate on the issue yesterday.
The Vatican came up against a staunch challenge from Britain, which defended the use of human embryos for medical research, reported The Associated Press.
The UN General Assembly's legal committee will meet again today to discuss two 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.
Costa Rica's UN Ambassador Bruno Stagno Ugarte said Wednesday his resolution already had 62 co-sponsors, including the United States.
While Britain's UN ambassador Emyr Jones Parry said his country was against human reproductive cloning, it could not support any attempt to ban or "unreasonably restrict" cloning for research purposes.
Jones Parry says his nation is convinced of the benefits of therapeutic cloning. In fact, British law moved ahead of the UN and legalized therapeutic cloning. In May, Britain set up the first embryonic stem-cell bank.
Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the Vatican's UN representative, said the distinction between reproductive and therapeutic cloning "seems specious" because they involve the same process and differ only in their goals.
"Both forms of cloning involve disrespect for the dignity of the human being," Migliore said. He said it is impossible to enforce a ban on one type of cloning while permitting another. He also argued that adult stem-cell research posed no ethical questions and had so far proved more promising than embryonic stem-cell research.
He noted that " the choice is not between science and ethics, but between science that is ethically responsible and science that is not.”
“Thousands of lives have been saved by adult stem cells" and evidence shows that " that adult stem cell transplants are safe, and preliminary results suggest they will be able to help people with Parkinson's disease, spinal cord injury, heart damage and dozens of other conditions," said the archbishop.
In conclusion Archbishop Migliori said that the Holy See is "convinced that the subject of human embryonic cloning can be best addressed by a juridical instrument, since the rule of law is essential to the promotion and protection of human life."
All 191 U.N. member-states have the right to vote on the matter but the Vatican, which has permanent observer status, does not. The committee has not set a date to vote but it has until Nov. 10.