Anti-cloning advocates may want to keep their pitchforks at the ready. A United Nations bioethics committee is taking a second look at the UN’s current cloning policy, which condemns all possible forms of human cloning. Could the UN be on track to relax its views on cloning, or is it looking to ban the practice for good?In 2005, the UN General Assembly adopted the non-binding Declaration on Human Cloning, which urges member states “to adopt all measures necessary to prohibit all forms of human cloning inasmuch as they are incompatible with human dignity and the protection of human life.” At the end of the month, the UN’s International Bioethics Committee will gather in Paris to debate the UN’s position on human cloning and advise the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization on how it should proceed. Among the issues the IBC will have to consider are: Should the UN explicitly permit therapeutic human cloning? Pros: The use of somatic cells and eggs to replicate human tissue has promising implications for the treatment of spinal cord injuries, neurological disorders, and organ failure, meaning it could fall under the umbrella of “protection of human life.” And, since several member states were unwilling to submit to any resolution that could be interpreted as banning therapeutic cloning, the UN may be missing an opportunity to regulate such cloning or enacting a binding ban on reproductive cloning. Cons: Because the process requires the creation of a blastula, many view therapeutic cloning as violating human dignity on the same grounds as embryonic stem cell research. And others reject it because the embryos it creates could potentially grow into a cloned fetus, making it perhaps one step removed from reproductive cloning. Likely Outcome: It is likely that the IBC will recommend that the UN avoid attempting to ban therapeutic cloning in favor of encouraging member states to adopt certain restrictions on cloning research. Should the UN regulate therapeutic human cloning? Pros: Because human eggs are required for somatic cell nuclear transfer, there is some concern that researchers could exploit women in order to obtain a sufficient supply of eggs. The General Assembly explicitly stated in its resolution that it sought to avoid the exploitation of women in the application of life sciences. Other aspects of therapeutic cloning may similarly risk exploitation of human life and should be investigated. Cons: Regulating certain aspects of therapeutic cloning at an international level, such as those limiting the development of the blastula, could unduly hamper medical research. Any regulations would have to balance the dual goals of protecting human dignity and preserving human life. Likely Outcome: An IBC working group set up to analyze the issue has questioned the adequacy of international regulations on human cloning, and recommended that the international community develop guidelines for cloning regulation. Should the UN enact a binding resolution to ban reproductive human cloning? Pros: Separating the issues of reproductive and therapeutic cloning could create the appearance of legitimacy for therapeutic research and encourage bright line rules for what the international community is willing to accept. Cons: Depending on how broadly reproductive cloning is defined, a ban on reproductive cloning could negatively impact therapeutic research. Banning all reproductive cloning would also mean banning reproductive cloning for medical purposes without first exploring how the concepts of human dignity and protection of life might apply in such situations. Likely Outcome: The working group has recommended that the UN address reproductive cloning as a separate issue from therapeutic cloning and that the General Assembly pass a binding convention to ban reproductive cloning. UN Ethics Panel To Reconsider Human Cloning Ban [Scoop]