CBC’s Chairman Nigel M. de S. Cameron served as bioethics adviser on the US delegation to the United Nations cloning discussions in 2002. Here are his personal reflections on the latest developments.

A few days ago the media reported a setback at the United Nations for the US and other nations seeking a global cloning ban.

A procedural motion, proposed by Islamic countries, was successful ヨ by just one vote (80-79). It had the effect of freezing the debate for a period of two years, and ending a debate which had begun to go very much our way. As on Capitol Hill, the debate was between those who really want to ban all human cloning, and those who want to protect cloning embryos for experiments. At the last count, 64 nations had agreed to co-sponsor the comprehensive ban, and 40 more to support it (against substantially smaller numbers in favor of the so-called partial ban).

What does all this mean? It looks like a defeat, and yet motions to table are usually made by people who know they are liable to lose the real vote. Momentum had been running fast in favor of a full ban. We now have two years during which to build on that momentum and secure even stronger support for our position.

Why does it matter so much? Because cloning is the first big question of the biotech century. If we get this right, everything else will be easier. If we don’t, the task of regulating and containing biotech to ensure it serves human dignity will get tougher. That’s why nations that want to pursue unethical biotech (like the UK) have worked so hard to prevent us securing a ban. It’s why the leaders of the biotech industry here in the US have been doing just the same thing on Capitol Hill. And it’s why we have to keep pushing until by God’s grace we win.

What’s particularly encouraging is that 64 nations, from Latin America, Europe, Africa ヨ all around the globe ヨ have agreed that this must be done.

Nigel Cameron