UN to Move on Gene Resolution

The United Nations (UN) is nearing approval of a resolution calling for restrictions on human gene research and respect for genetic diversity.

Last week, a UN committee approved the Resolution on the Human Genome and Human Rights, which calls for vigilance against discrimination based on a person's genes and recommends restrictions on human cloning and germline gene therapies, which risk introducing new genes into a population. The resolution also argues that use of human DNA "should not give rise to financial gain"--a controversial issue as companies race for lucrative gene patents.

Observers say the panel's endorsement virtually ensures that the measure will pass a 10 December General Assembly vote. But whether nations will adhere to the guidelines is uncertain. Germany and Australia, which are still working on their own policies, have expressed reservations. And the United States pressed to soften the guidelines before endorsing them. Georgetown University bioethicist LeRoy Walters says Americans generally have "less hesitancy" than others about genetic manipulations.