I am writing in response to your news article 'Sparks fly over UNESCO bioethics pact'.

It appears that the declaration is welcomed by some, but not all, religious groups and criticised by some, again not all, academics. In other words the dichotomy of 'religious for' / 'academics against' is a little too facile.

The news story says that at "the heart of the document, however is language that addresses — usually implicitly — the use of embryos in research".

But the 2005 UN declaration on human cloning contains similar wording.

The human cloning declaration has called on member countries to rule against the use of cloning both for research and for reproduction "inasmuch as [these practices] are incompatible with human dignity and the protection of human life."

It also calls upon members "to take measures to prevent the exploitation of women in the application of life sciences," referring to the fact that in some countries, poverty forces women to sell their own eggs.

Finally, it raises issues regarding how money for medical research should be allocated. It calls on members to "take into account the pressing global issues such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, which affect in particular the developing countries."

In these respects, there is a link between the two declarations.

This is not to overlook, however, that some researchers in developing countries pursue, or are in favour of pursuing, practices that the human cloning declaration rejects.

These views are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent those of the University of Minnesota.