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The member states of the United Nations have approved a resolution recommending that countries ban all forms of human cloning. The decision, made yesterday (8 March) was reached by 84 votes to 34, with 37 abstentions.

The non-binding declaration was proposed by Honduras, following two years of debate about whether the UN should ban any or all forms of human cloning; the high number of abstentions reflects the fact that the issue remains unresolved in many Arab states.

The declaration urges that both reproductive cloning – aimed at creating humans – and 'therapeutic' cloning of human embryos to allow their cells to be used in medical research, should be banned.

But, given that this is only a recommendation, the impact of the resolution is likely to be far less than that of a global treaty banning all forms of cloning, attempts to establish which were dropped last year.

The main reason for the split vote was that many countries have decided to permit therapeutic cloning despite banning reproductive cloning. China, India and Brazil are among those countries keen to allow such research to continue.

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