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Cloning - Genetic Carbon Copy Controversies

Oct 23, 2007
Dolly the Sheep became an instant celebrity in 1996 when UK scientists (quite literally) created the world's first clone of a mammal using an adult cell. As controversial as Dolly's creation was her early death in 2003.

The international press was abuzz: Does cloning violate scientific ethics? Is it right to produce a genetic copy that is evidently inferior till you hit the right one?

Dolly's stuffed remains may have been relegated to the Royal Museum at Edinburgh, but the debates she started brought the issue of cloning a little too close to home: making genetic carbon copies of human beings.

Cloning Outlawed?

In 2005, the UN General Assembly (in a vote of 84 to 34) appealed to its member nations to ban any type of human cloning. Cloning is defined as the process of creating an exact replica of an organism, cell, or gene. The UN stated that human cloning is 'incompatible with human dignity' and goes against protecting human life.

Dozens of nations the world over have enacted laws that ban any type of human cloning. France, Germany, Switzerland, Norway, and Canada all have cloning embargoes in place.

But a couple of months after the UN General Assembly released its stand, South Korean scientists reportedly cloned 11 sick people and then killed their cloned embryos.

What about the US? Well, the Human Cloning Prohibition Act, which Congress passed again in 2003 (it was first passed in 2001), is still sitting in the Senate. The Act bans, among other things, cloning human embryos.

After years of debate, a rival bill, which allows human embryo cloning but bans cloned embryos from being used to initiate pregnancy, was overwhelmingly voted down, 231 to 174. It seems that the Act is once more destined for endless debates in the Senate (which has its own version of the bill) just as it suffered in the House.

The only distinct similarity between the Senate and House versions of the Anti-cloning Act is the penalty: A maximum prison term of 10 years and a maximum fine of $1 million.

So, pending a law, is human cloning outlawed in the US because the UN says so?

Human cloning experiments are going through rough sailing not because of the UN directive (the US doesn't exactly bow to the UN on its internal policies), but because the sitting President is dead set against it.

Cloning - What Americans Think...

It is President Bush's firm stand that human life should never be extinguished or exploited to profit another. The American public agrees with him.

In a recent Gallup poll, over 60% were against human embryo cloning as opposed to around 30% that approved. What's more, the anti-cloning percentage dramatically went up when it was explained that the embryos would be destroyed during research.

So cloning as a crime is a likely reality if a bill gets through within this President's term. If it continues to sit in the Senate into the next administration, who knows what may happen.

3 Little Known Facts About Cloning

If cloning as a crime is ever submitted for voting in your state, here are a few facts you must consider.

1. Biotechnology Industry Organization has been aggressively pushing for state laws that allow cloned humans to grow past the fetal stage even until birth. The purpose: To harvest tissues for transplanting - so long as they aren't kept alive after the newborn phase.

2. A number of biotechnologists are currently developing animal clones way past embryo stage. They then harvest animal parts and develop artificial-womb technologies.

3. Anti Cloning doesn't always mean Anti Stem Cell research. Taking stem cells from adult tissues or umbilical cords isn't ethically controversial since it doesn't entail killing human embryos. This kind of stem cell research has repeatedly produced promising results in fighting diseases. Furthermore, many anti-cloning advocates (including legislators) are either afflicted with degenerative diseases or have family members that are.
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