Stem cell researchers in Asia expressed relief at the recent United Nations decision to move away from a total ban on human cloning. The UN has been trying to hammer out a declaration on cloning for years. Despite agreement on the need to ban reproductive cloning, deep divisions among member-states over whether to ban therapeutic cloning have stymied efforts to reach consensus.

The UN General Assembly is now considering a nonbinding declaration asking member nations to ban reproductive cloning and adopt legislation to respect "human dignity." The latest proposal, which Italy submitted, will be discussed further in February 2005.

Paul Tam, a professor and researcher at the University of Hong Kong Genome Research Centre, says scientists in the territory would welcome UN guidelines, as long as they are balanced and not compulsory. He says Hong Kong is in the early stages of organizing a loose group of scientists and ethicists...

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