I've brought up the therapeutic cloning debate at the United Nations many times over the past few months - because I think it is important. A treaty may not have had much in the way of direct legal effects, but it would have been a blow for the fight for freedom of research in many countries. Therapeutic cloning is a fundamentally important technology, vital to much of the most promising research into regenerative medicine and therapies for age-related conditions. Ban it and you throw away the best and most promising stem cell research.
Today, it looks like attempts to craft a treaty to ban therapeutic cloning have been abandoned:
In a victory for advocates of stem cell research, U.N. diplomats on Thursday gave up trying to craft a treaty to outlaw human cloning, and will probably settle for a less powerful document that won't seek a worldwide ban, officials said.
In the end, both sides realized they wouldn't get enough support for a treaty to achieve worldwide ratification, said Marc Pecsteen, a Belgian diplomat in the thick of the talks. Instead, they were leaning toward a nonbinding declaration that would include language ambiguous enough to please both sides.
"There is such a division in the international community that any treaty would not make it. So the idea of the declaration is to find some general language that we could all live with," Pecsteen said.
This last quote sounds like a face saving exercise that will, hopefully, have little effect on research in the US and elsewhere.
Overall, I think we can hope that the tide of public support, funding and actual scientific progress has turned past the point at which politicians are willing to play Canute. In just the past few days, Geron has been loudly proclaiming their embryonic stem cell research results (and more here), while Wisconsin politicians are the latest group of elected officials in the US to declare major funding plans for embryonic stem cell research. I suspect it will be much harder for anti-research groups in the US to push through the pending bill criminalizing therapeutic cloning than in previous years - and a good thing too. Now if that obnoxious bill could just be buried completely, so that it stops scaring away private funding...