Statement from the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE)...

I have been following with great interest the comments regarding cloning. Having just read Terry Turner's comments and his suggestion that various professional societies should make public statements regarding cloning, I thought it would be appropriate to point out that both ESHRE and the ASRM have issued press releases expressing grave concern over the recent declaration of intent to clone human babies. The ESHRE press release was as follows:

ESHRE reiterates its opposition to human reproductive cloning The European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) has reiterated its opposition to the cloning of human babies. In a statement today (March 15, 2001) ESHRE said: 'While ESHRE supports cloning for therapeutic purposes and believes that it is vital if we are to develop potential new treatments for serious human diseases, we do not support human cloning for reproductive purposes -- that is, for producing babies.'ESHRE took a consensus decision in 1999 to impose a voluntary moratorium on reproductive cloning and we see no reason to change that decision. 'We strongly oppose the recent proposal to attempt human reproductive cloning. While we fully acknowledge the distress that infertility can cause, the available assisted-reproduction techniques can provide very successful treatment for the vast majority of infertile couples.'

Lynn Fraser, Chairman ESHRE

Bush OKs Outlawing Human Cloning
Laura Meckler,
Associated Press Writer

March 29, 2001; Washington, D.C. (AP) -- Scientists called human cloning ethically risky and likely to produce deformed babies, even as researchers who plan to move forward defended their plans Wednesday before a congressional panel. The White House said President Bush would sign a Federal law outlawing such research. Members of Congress appeared eager to send him the legislation, saying that even if the scientific and safety issues could be overcome, ethical issues remain.

"Cloning may literally threaten the character of our human nature," said Rep. Billy Tauzin, R-LA, Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, who plans to introduce legislation this Spring. Rep. Clifford Stearns, R-FL, went further: "It interferes with the natural order of things," he said. "People have a right to their own genetic makeup, which should never be replicated."

Clones are created when the genetic material from a single cell is injected into an egg cell that has had its genes removed. The resulting baby is like an identical twin born years later. While mainstream scientists are unanimously opposed to human cloning, at least for now, two groups of scientists have promised to move ahead within the next year or two.

They defended their plans before the Commerce Oversight subcommittee, likening their work to early efforts at In Vitro Fertilization. Cloning, they said, can help infertile couples who want a biologically-related child. "Those that say ban it, those would not be the Neil Armstrong's that would fly us to the moon," said Panos Zavos, M.D., a reproduction researcher who resigned this month from the University of Kentucky to help lead the human cloning effort. In any case, Zavos added, there's no way to stop the science now, four years after Scottish researchers succeeded in cloning a sheep. "The genie's out of the bottle," he said. Zavos is working with an Italian infertility doctor, Severino Antinori, and the pair has promised to clone a human within a year. They have promised to carry out their work in a country -- not the United States -- where it is legal. [ Editor's Note: They have said earlier that they expect to accomplish their goal in two to three years, probably in a Mediterranean country.]

Meanwhile, a separate group plans work in the United States. The company, Clonaid, was founded by Rael, the leader of a religious organization called The Raelian Movement. The Raelians argue that life on Earth was created by extraterrestrial scientists. "Traditional religions have always been against scientific progress," Rael said in written testimony. "Nothing should stop science. ... Ethical committees are unnecessary and dangerous because they give power to conservative, obscurantist forces, which are guided only by traditional religious powers." Dr. Brigitte Boisselier, who directs Rael's lab, told the panel that her company received a letter this week from the Food and Drug Administration warning that it would be against the law to proceed with cloning without FDA permission. Boisselier said she did not know whether Clonaid would proceed anyway.

The FDA says any human cloning experiments in the United States would need its approval and, based on safety concerns, the Agency would not approve any applications at this time. Boisselier dismissed safety concerns, saying the problems have all come in cloning animals and do not apply to potential human cloning. She said she is working with "a father who is devastated by the death of his son" and wants to clone him. The key to avoiding a deformed baby, she said, is simply checking the embryos that are to be implanted in surrogate mothers for genetic problems.

"But that does not solve the problem," said Rudolf Jaenisch, a biologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "Embryos with defects that can be identified will never make it to full term anyway. The problem is with abnormalities that cannot be spotted but will cause defects after the baby is born," he said. "Only a tiny percentage of cloned animals are born that appear to be normal. And some of these may in fact have brain development problems that are not apparent because animals are not sophisticated enough to demonstrate them," he said.

Congress worked on legislation banning cloning a couple of years ago, but failed to produce a bill Among the issues: Banning human cloning without stopping research using similar techniques to fight disease.

Also Wednesday, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Bush will work with Congress on a Federal statute banning cloning. "The president believes that no research -- no research -- to create a human being should take place in the United States," he said. "The president believes that any attempt to clone a human being would present a grave risk both to the mother and the child. He opposes it on moral grounds." Fleischer noted that Bush supports former President Clinton's 1997 ban on Federal funds for human cloning research. [Editor's Note: What? Invoking President Clinton's name in this context does not seem to be consistent.]

[Editor's Note: One wag compared these hearings to an X-Files TV script. It certainly had all the right ingredients -- Congressman and serious scientists talking with people who believe in aliens and UFOs, trying to discover the secret location of a human cloning lab somewhere in the United States, so that the FBI (oops, I meant "the FDA") could shut them down. One Congressman is reputed to have said, "' Dolly will fly' before we allow human cloning in this country." This Congressman must have been getting his information from a staffer who watched the Hollywood movie The Sixth Day starring Arnold Schwarzenagger, in which Anti-Cloning Laws were passed after a riot in Rome. I wonder how the script writers knew such a thing would happen, anyway? The movie was released in November 2000, and the Rome Conference was just held this month (March 2001). They also forgot to solicit expert testimony from the "Ph.D. Geneticist" from the movie The Red Planet, who, in response to a religious argument, defended himself by saying, 'I write [DNA] code. OK? A, G, T, P (sic) in different combinations, hacking the human genome! I chose What; I chose Where, and either your kidneys work or you grow a 6th finger. I DO THAT. Now you spot God, and you let me know. Until then, I'll trust my Ph.D." Later in the movie this same "scientist" said before he was eaten by a colony of Martian insects, "It's some kind of nematode (sic)."]


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