Cloning Essay, Research Paper
Last updated: June 30, 1998Should Cloning Be Banned? Since Scottish scientists reported the successful cloning of a sheep named Dolly last year, new research into cloning has grown rapidy — as has the ethical controversy surrounding the procedure. In May 1998, scientists at a Massachusetts cell research firm announced the production of genetically identical calves using a new cloning technology that could make it possible to create “designer” cattle. And in June, buzz about the successful cloning of a mouse swept through the scientific community.The apparent success of animal cloning has fueled the emotionally-charged debate over the prospect of cloning human beings, which was set off several months ago when Chicago physicist Richard Seed announced plans to clone a human within the next two years. Seed proposes to remove DNA from a woman’s egg, replace it with genetic material from the person being cloned, initiate development of an embryo under laboratory conditions, and then place the resulting embryo into the woman s womb. Seed’s proposal has generated lots of media attention, most of it negative. President Clinton immediately renewed his push for federal legislation to outlaw both public and private attempts at human cloning. “Personally, I believe that human cloning raises deep concerns, given our cherished concepts of faith and humanity,” he said in a national radio address. (In June 1997, the President’s National Bioethics Advisory Commission issued a report concluding that human cloning should not currently be attempted). House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-TX) has also called for a cloning ban, telling Fox News Sunday “I think this is a nasty business, something that we should not be messing in.” Both claim there is broad support for a ban among members of the scientific and medical community. Several anti-cloning bills have been introduced in Congress. Earlier this year, a Republican-sponsored measure to ban cloning was stalled in the Senate. Elsewhere, nineteen European nations signed an agreement prohibiting the genetic replication of humans. Also, many states in the U.S. are considering or have passed anti-cloning legislation. A cloning ban enacted in Michigan last month faces a possible constitutional challenge.Many researchers are concerned that laws prohibiting human cloning will threaten important research — especially in the area of infertility. A March 23 editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine called any plan to ban research on cloning human cells “seriously misguided.” Many researchers also believe that, regardless of whatever laws are passed, human cloning will eventually become a reality because it is an inevitible consequence of scientific advancement. The controversy raises fundamental questions about how technology affects our lives and what it means to be human. Is there reason to fear that cloning will lead to a Brave New World scenario? Would a human clone be treated differently than other people? Should the government control cloning research? Or are politicians overreacting, exploiting unfounded public fears for quick political gain at the expense of important scientific research? Should — or can — advances in biotechnology be controlled by the government to satisfy particular moral or ethical beliefs? Should we be cloning around?Breakthrough raises exciting — and scary — possibilitiesFebruary 24, 1997Web posted at: 3:45 p.m. EST (CNN) — The announcement that a team of British scientists had successfully cloned an adult sheep has touched off a new wave of discussion over the ethical implications of such a feat. The achievement announced Sunday by a team of scientists at the Roslin Institute near Edinburgh, Scotland, marks the first time anyone has successfully cloned an adult mammal. “There are a number of genetic diseases for which there is no cure … and this will enable us to carry out research into the causes of those diseases and perhaps develop method to treat them,” Dr. Ian Wilmut of the Roslin Institute said following the announcement. While some scientists hail the cloning as a major breakthrough for research in agriculture, aging, medicine and genetics, others worry what it may portend. If sheep can be replicated, they ask, are humans far behind? Suddenly the stuff of science fiction doesn’t seem so fanciful anymore as one considers the possibility of dictators cloning themselves, dead geniuses brought back to life, or beloved family pets resurrected. Sheep, cattle, pigs … what next? At the center of the controversy is a cuddly 7-month-old lamb named Dolly, an exact copy of a 6-year-old ewe born through a process called “nuclear transplantation.” Specifically, the Roslin scientists put genes from the ewe into unfertilized eggs then implanted them in other sheep. Grahame Bulfield, director of the Roslin Institute, told CNN Monday his team has previously cloned mammals at various stages of development. What makes Dolly different, he said, is that she was cloned not from sex cells, but from mature mammal cells with no reproductive function. (272K/24 sec. AIFF or WAV sound) “I expect in the fullness of time, we will be trying to do the same experiments on cattle and pigs,” he said. What about humans? Maybe such experiments are under way in other parts of the world, but not in Scotland. Due to ethical concerns, Britain has banned human cloning, and research using human embryos is strictly regulated. CNN’s Siobhan Darrow on the ethical implications of cloning (196K/17 sec. AIFF or WAV sound) Such experiments are not banned in the United States, although some American ethicists are calling for federal laws prohibiting the practice and an immediate international moratorium on human cloning. “One of the prospects should not be, perhaps should never be, the extension of this technique to human beings,” said Carl Felbaum, president of the Biotechnology Industry Organization, in an interview with CNN. “Now that it may be possible we would say its should be prohibited if necessary by law.” “We’re going to be facing this issue with humans,” said Stephen Grebe, an associate professor of biology at American University in Washington. “With that possibility open, I’m concerned without adequate safeguards this will become a reality. It may very well already be.” Don’t go there, ethicists warnBut even if humans could be cloned, they would not necessarily be identical, according to Grebe who noted that human twins may appear to be exactly alike, but have distinct personalities. (281K/25 sec. AIFF or WAV sound) While the prospects of cloning may open exciting possibilities like the replication of an Albert Einstein or a Mother Teresa, it brings with it some terrifying prospects. “Do we want necessarily Einsteins and are we willing to accept the costs of so-called bad copies?” Grebe asked. “What about failed experiments? These are really horrific issues and I think there’s a moral chasm between the technological ability at this point and the public understanding of the purpose of this.” Felbaum is uncomfortable with such speculation. With regard to cloning Einsteins, he said, “I would assert this is not a line we want to cross. I would say this is not even a line we want to approach.” (247K/22 sec. AIFF or WAV sound) Correspondent Siobhan Darrow contributed to this report. Germline TherapyThe suggestion of doing genetic changes to the human germline – such that any change was automatically passed on to all subsequent progeny – has been one which has exercised many people, both over its technical and ethical aspects. A few technological optimists have speculated on eradicating certain genetic disease from affected populations, or even enhancing humanity’s genetic potential. Rather more of us, it would seem, recoil at the thought of allowing some human beings such far-reaching powers. There seem to be all too many opportunities for less desirable human uses of the idea. Many people involved in ethics have raised serious doubts about the wider implications of affecting future generations in ways in which they have no say. One reaction has been to say that it is unlikely ever to happen. It might require dangerous and unethical experiments on human beings. Indeed it is illegal in the UK under the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990. Other reasons advanced are to do with pragmatics and funding. From a utilitarian point of view, the end of eradicating a genetic disease, if this was desired, could better and more cheaply be achieved by the means of therapeutic abortion of affected embryos or foetuses. This poses as many ethically problems as it would solve, since it dismisses the views of those who think that termination of pregnancy under such circumstances would be wrong, or others who consider that abortion has already become far too permissive. Overall, it is a common view that germline therapy is certainly a very distant prospect. This view may now need revisiting in the light of two events in the last few weeks that could make some of these questions closer than we had thought.
Genetically Altered Environmental Risks Ecosystems Evolution Environmental Agricultural Genetic Superweeds Overview ofIssues and Dangers Is it safe for the biotech industry to tamper with millions of years of complex evolution at the genetic level of our foods and environment?Molecular biologists and the biotechnology industry are making radical alterations to our food and environment through genetic engineering. Are they irresponsibly downplaying the risks and unforeseen negative side-effects? Human genes are being spliced into pigs, fish genes into tomatoes, and insect genes into potatoes. They are inserting virus, bacteria, and other genes into anything from the vegetables we eat to the ingredient crops of infant formula, soy milk, french fries, common sweeteners and food bases, soda, ketchup, cookies, and pizza. Many consumers are not yet aware that genetically engineered foods are already on the supermarket shelves. Unscientific Despite claims that they could not occur, many recent unforeseen problems with genetically altered organisms verify the criticism that no-one can predict the complex and subtle side-effects of this kind of genetic manipulation. Serious problems have already occurred, and the long-range implications and risks of genetic engineering are unknown. Contrary to the image being generated, this industry is not a particularly scientific endeavor. Powerful economic and political forces are driving the widespread implementation of genetic technologies, and, as is often the case, industry is putting profit before safety. These mutated foodstuffs have no track record, yet the U.S. and other countries have, despite serious concerns from the international scientific community, approved these products for commercial distribution without requiring adequate testing or informative labeling. It appears they do not believe that the public has the right to know what they are eating. Scientific advancement is a powerful tool with many benefits, however, science shows us that the more powerful a technology is, the more caution needs to be exercised in its usage. Genetic engineering is a very powerful technology, and a significant section of the scientific community believes that governments and research institutions should require, as a fail-safe measure, absolute safety first, in the introduction of this new technology. Genetic engineering is far from being an exact science. Molecular biologists can intentionally or unintentionally create changes in the complex genetic and biological make-up of plants and animals that result in new unknown proteins and constituents, whose consumption can bring unknown side-effects. New, unsuitable organisms can also be created which threaten the environment. According to some eminent experts in this field, the scenario is disconcerting: Erwin Chargoff, often referred to as the father of molecular biology, warned that all innovation does not necessarily result in “progress”. Chargoff once referred to genetic engineering as “a molecular Auschwitz”, and warned that the technology of genetic engineering poses a greater threat to the world than the advent of nuclear technology. “I have the feeling that science has transgressed a barrier that should have remained inviolate,” he wrote in his autobiography, Heraclitean Fire . Noting the “awesome irreversibility” of genetic engineering experiments being planned, Chargoff warned that, “…you cannot recall a new form of life… It will survive you and your children and your children’s children. An irreversible attack on the biosphere is something so unheard-of, so unthinkable to previous generations, that I could only wish that mine had not been guilty of it.”(26) Concerns are shared by many scientists. The Union of Concerned Scientists (a body of more than 1600 respected scientists from around the world, including more than 100 Nobel Laureates in the sciences) believes that genetic engineering of foodstuffs can present significant risks to health and the environment. They advocate sustainable agriculture as a more intelligent, viable solution(2). The European Union (EU) has raised serious concerns about some genetically engineered crops now on the market(3,4,7,11), as has Japan(11). The EU has approved a measure requiring companies to label genetically modified food. Norway has also required the labeling, and banned certain types, as well as the release of genetically modified crops, animals, and other organisms into the environment. Austria and Luxembourg have banned the import of genetically modified grain, and other countries are considering doing so(11). Genetic Engineering is spreading fast The growth of the genetic engineering industry is not a small issue. At present, the genes of virtually every grain, vegetable, fruit, and legume have been genetically altered in the laboratory. Many of these crops are used in a wide range of common foods, and have arrived in the supermarkets. The short and long range side-effects of such products are unknown. The bottom line it seems, with regards to genetic engineering, is that, without our consent, we are all being used as guinea pigs by a profit driven industry, for a dangerous technological experiment. Modifying DNA Genes are the working blueprint for every part of an organism, whether human, animal, or plant. They constitute the DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid), the biological intelligence of the organism – a natural entity of unrivaled complexity and sophistication. So much so that a new, fast growing branch of research in computer science involves the attempt to utilize the DNA’s awesome computing power. If ever accomplished, it is estimated such a computer will be able to perform trillions of computations simultaneously in a single test tube of DNA. Or, store in one small jar, millions of times as much information as is possible in today’s largest computer memories, making today’s supercomputers seem primitive(54). Utilizing this computing power is one thing, but when it comes to understanding the immense complexities of DNA and its interactions within the body and the ecosystem, scientists are shooting in the dark. Genetic engineering is the process of modifying the information contained in the DNA, particularly by artificially transferring the genes specific to one type of organism into another. These organisms are often referred to as ‘transgenic’. Why do it? Genetic scientists want to transfer seemingly desirable qualities from one organism to another. For example, to make a crop resistant to a chemical pesticide, so that more pesticide can be used on crops, or, to make a product more marketable (eg. tomatoes that will squash less easily in harvesting, packing and shipping), therefore cheaper. However, the situation with the current failures of genetic engineering (Bt cotton, rBGH in milk, canola[oilseed rape], Flavr-Savr tomato, etc. [see below]), the subsequent rejection by farmers, the public’s rejection of these products, along with the dangers predicted by many scientists, makes the biotech companies financially threatened. Huge investments by these companies may not pay off after all. Since, by nature, such large transnational companies are ruled by the need to raise stock price values, this seems to put them in a difficult situation. These large companies are currently switching from the pesticide and hybrid crop industry to biotechnology because these other technological practices are now failing worldwide – pest resistance is rendering pesticides useless and intensive farming is crippling the ability of the land to produce. This battle against nature has floundered, and now a new ‘agricultural revolution’ is promised with genetic engineering, but this is already showing serious signs of failure and damage to health and environment. Why is it dangerous? Many scientists have expressed strong concern about genetic engineering. According to molecular biology expert, Dr. John Fagan of Maharishi University of Management: “Of the technologies now in use, genetic engineering is especially dangerous because many of the most common applications of this new technology threaten to generate unexpected, harmful side effects that cannot be reversed or corrected, but will afflict all future generations. The side effects caused by genetic manipulations are not just long term. They are permanent….Genetic engineers cannot fully and reliably predict the biological effects of these alterations. They cannot adequately predict how these manipulations will influence cellular functioning, the physiology and behavior of the organism as a whole, and the ecosystem into which that genetically engineered organism will be introduced. It is impossible to confidently predict the effects of genetic manipulations because of the complexity and interconnectedness of living systems. Whether we examine the simplest single-celled microorganism, or a human being, or the global ecosystem, we find a huge number of complex components. These take part in extremely intricate, coordinated interactions; all as part of one, vast, integrated, unified phenomenon – life.” (25p.6-7)