ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network

12 April 2002


According to the Independent's report in item 1, reproductive cloning is "abhorred by most people including the scientific community". This blanket statement is seriously misleading. There are many eminent supporters within the scientific establishment of both the options of human reproductive cloning (as the technology becomes more developed) and transgenic humans - as an example of such support,  see item 4 below.

For more on these issues:

1. Bush - "Life is a creation, not a commodity"
2. Clone pregnancy risks womb cancer
3. Dolly scientists apply to use human embryos
4. Declaration in Defense of Cloning [including the option of human cloning]


1. Bush - "Life is a creation, not a commodity"

from  Marcus Williamson <>

George W Bush is quoted in this article as saying: "Life is a creation, not a commodity"

Perhaps he should apply this new-found morality a little more widely, into animals and plants? Or does he only believe that *human* life is a creation and not a commodity...? Or is it just that he is playing for votes from the Christian fundamentalist right in the US...?

We must not clone humans, Bush tells the Senate
By Rupert Cornwell in Washington, Independent, UK - 11 April 2002

President George Bush made an impassioned plea for a total ban on human cloning yesterday after the Senate announced that it would hold a vote on the issue.

Mr Bush, whose opposition extends to embryonic cloning for medical research, made his plea at a White House meeting with opponents of the research, hours after the Senate majority leader, Tom Daschle, confirmed that a vote would be held within the next few weeks. With the pro and anti camps equally divided, the balance is held by about 20 undecided senators, at whom Mr Bush was directing his remarks yesterday.

"We must stop human cloning before it starts," the President declared. "We must ask ourselves what is right. Even the most noble ends do not always justify any means."

He endorsed the Republican-led Senate Bill demanding a ban, and stressed that he opposed not only reproductive cloning to create another human being, which is abhorred by most people including the scientific community, but also cloning to produce embryos from which stem cells could be extracted.

Many scientists support the latter, saying it could be vital in the search for cures to diseases such as cancer, diabetes and Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. "That's where the divide is," Mr Daschle, a supporter of research cloning, said.

Almost simultaneously, a group of 40 Nobel prize-winning scientists issued a declaration supporting research cloning, arguing that an across-the-board ban "would have a chilling effect on all scientific research in the United States".

A ban, they said, would be "unprecedented and ill-conceived", placing medical research and development in the United States at a dangerous disadvantage with foreign competitors.

But Mr Bush was having none of this. "Life is a creation, not a commodity", he said. "Our children are not products to be designed and manufactured."

Conjuring up a nightmarish vision of a world in which "human beings are grown to provide spare body parts", the President said that whatever the technical distinction between reproductive cloning and research cloning, in practice it would be impossible to enforce. Even stem cell research using embryos would "require the destruction of nascent human life", he said.

In words which will delight anti-abortionists and the social conservatives who are an important part of his political base, Mr Bush spoke of the "fundamental principle that no human life should be exploited or extinguished for the benefit of another".

President's Bush's attitude towards cloning has, if anything, hardened since last August when he gave grudging approval to federal funding for research on existing human stem cell lines. Yesterday he called for more support for the research, which, he said, did not involve the destruction of human life.

A bipartisan Bill outlawing cloning has already been overwhelmingly passed by the House of Representatives. In the Senate, advocates of a ban have been heartened by the support of Bill Frist of Tennessee, the lone doctor in the Senate and an influential voice on medical issues, who has come round in support of President Bush.

Their cause has also been helped by an unconfirmed report that the controversial Italian fertility doctor Severino Antinori has successfully established a cloned pregnancy, now in its eighth week.

The claim, which was made last week in the Gulf News has been widely discounted in America, but the very thought of it has heightened alarm ahead of the vote.
for the speech:
President Bush Calls on Senate to Back Human Cloning Ban
Remarks by the President on Human Cloning Legislation
The East Room, April 10, 2002


2. Clone pregnancy risks womb cancer

Exclusive from New Scientist

In November, the world's first cloned baby could be born, if recent reports are to be believed. But cloning experts are horrified and say that even if the baby is healthy, the mother could be at a high risk of a rare invasive womb cancer.

Shock waves have reverberated around the world since New Scientist highlighted the claim of maverick Italian fertility expert Severino Antinori that one of his patients is pregnant with a clone.

According to Gulf News, he told a meeting in the United Arab Emirates that "one woman among thousands of infertile couples in the programme is eight weeks pregnant".

But in addition to fears for the clone itself, worries have emerged about the future health of the mother. Richard Gardner, an expert on early mammalian embryo development who chaired the UK Royal Society's working group on cloning, says that the mother could be at risk from choriocarcinoma, an unusual form of cancer unique to humans.

The cancer develops from the trophoblast, the part of an embryo that invades the womb wall and develops into the placenta. Though the causes are unknown, poorly regulated genes controlling the growth of the placenta seem to be the key.

Gene overdrive

Animal experiments have shown that these genes remain switched on in cloned embryos when they should be silenced by a chemical masking process called "imprinting". This means that important genes linked to the development of the placenta could go into overdrive, accelerating its growth and posing high risks to mothers.

"The human has the most invasive placenta to start with," says Gardner, a zoologist at the University of Oxford. "If placental growth goes awry, there's a greater propensity for this problem to emerge in humans than in other animals." He admits that while the risk is only theoretical, people have paid far too little attention to it, focusing instead on the fate of the clone itself.

Barry Hancock, director of a clinic at Weston Park Hospital in Sheffield that specialises in the treatment of trophoblastic cancers, agrees that abnormal imprinting in the genes of cloned human embryos may increase a mother's risk of the disease. "But it's a theoretical risk," he says.

Whatever the dangers, many people doubt Antinori's claims and want to see some solid proof. "It's very difficult to know what, if anything, is true," says Harry Griffin, head of communications at the Roslin Institute near Edinburgh where Dolly the sheep was cloned.

Andy Coghlan


3. Dolly scientists apply to use human embryos

By Paul Peachey
11 April 2002

The creators of Dolly the sheep are to seek to become the latest group of British scientists to carry out experiments on human embryos.

The Roslin Institute, near Edinburgh, wants to investigate ways of harvesting stem cells that are found in the growing embryo.

The first two licences allowing scientists to use stem cells from human embryos were awarded last month by Britain's fertility watchdog to the Centre for Genome Research at Edinburgh University and King's College London. Both groups will use only spare test-tube embryos less than 14 days old, which would otherwise be destroyed.

Experts believe stem cells have the potential to treat degenerative diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.

The Roslin Institute, which drew worldwide attention after Dolly was born in 1996, is considering how it could apply its technique, cell nuclear replacement, to human embryos. The scientists are proposing to establish methods for deriving human embryonic stem cells.

Professor Ian Wilmut, from the institute, said, "We will be applying for a license within the next couple of months. It is a significant shift for us and a natural way to go."


4. Declaration in Defense of Cloning

-- signatories include:

Sir Hermann Bondi, Fellow of the Royal Society, Past Master, Churchill College, Cambridge University, UK

Francis Crick, Nobel Laureate in Physiology, Salk Institute, U.S.A.

Richard Dawkins, Professor of Public Understanding of Science, Oxford University, UK

José Delgado, Director, Centro de Estudios Neurobiologicos, Spain

Herbert Hauptman, Nobel Laureate, Professor of Biophysical Science, S.U.N.Y., U.S.A

Sergei Kapitza, Chair, Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, Russia

Simone Veil, Former President, European Parliament, France

Edward O. Wilson, Professor Emeritus of Sociobiology, Harvard University, U.S.A.
Declaration in Defense of Cloning and the Integrity of Scientific Research

...We see no inherent ethical dilemmas in cloning nonhuman higher animals. Nor is it clear to us that future developments in cloning human tissues or even cloning human beings will create moral predicaments beyond the capacity of human reason to resolve. The moral issues raised by cloning are neither larger nor more profound than the questions human beings have already faced in regards to such technologies as nuclear energy, recombinant DNA, and computer encryption. They are simply new.

Historically, the Luddite option, which seeks to turn back the clock and limit or prohibit the application of already existing technologies, has never proven realistic or productive. The potential benefits of cloning may be so immense that it would be a tragedy if ancient theological scruples should lead to a Luddite rejection of cloning. We call for continued, responsible development of cloning technologies, and for a broad-based commitment to ensuring that traditionalist and obscurantist views do not irrelevantly obstruct beneficial scientific developments.

SOURCE: Free Inquiry magazine, Volume 17, Number 3.

ngin bulletin archive