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Human Cloning - Without Our Consent
With the cloning of Dolly, the sheep, the technical barriers to human cloning have been surmounted. Human cloning will happen unless legal barriers are in place and funding denied. The overall thrust of cloning is to remove the unpredictability, of natural diversity and to put the control of human reproduktion in the hands of the technocrats.
|By David King|
Amidst the flood of words unleashed by the possibility of cloning human beings, the main practical impact of the cloning of Dolly the sheep on the commercial cloning and genetic engineering of farm animals, has barely been mentioned. The technique used to produce Dolly will radically ease the production of genetically engineered animals: until now, engineering farm animals has been an almost prohibitively accident-prone, inefficient (and hence expensive) operation. The new technology will make it possible to get the genetic engineering right in adult cells, a standard and much cheaper procedure, and then clone from an unlimited supply of engineered cells.
What no-one has noticed is that the same thing applies to humans: the Roslin technique
will remove a major technical barrier to genetically engineering human beings, and
will also circumvent current legal bans. Although such a possibility is currently
subject to a moratorium, many scientists, as well as patients' organisations such
as the Genetics Interest Group are assiduously propounding the medical benefits of
such, euphemistically termed, 'germ line gene therapy'.
|This give us a clue to what is really disturbing about the possibility of human cloning: the relentess search for uniformity, efficiency and control.||This gives us a clue as to what is really disturbing about the possibility of human
and animal cloning: the relentless search for uniformity, efficiency and control.
Do we really want our farming to go further in the direction of industrial efficiency
that has given us BSE and the animal welfare horrors of the factory farm? For the
key thing about Dolly is that she is a product of industry, not of nature. (Thankfully,
it is as yet only a cottage industry.) The replacement of sexual reproduction by
asexual epitomises the industrial/scientific mind, which has always striven to replace
natural diversity, with all its inconvenient inefficiency and refusal to conform,
We are now faced with the possibility of the application of the same industrial logic to our own
reproduction. As many people have been quick to point out, the likelihood of creation of flocks of human clones is a fairly remote possibility, at least in democratic societies. And the political transformation to a society in which the Brave New World scenario was possible would
be far more horrible than the attendant proliferation of clones.
But this is not the real issue. Much more likely, as with In Vitro Fertilisation
(IVF) and genetic
|Science, like everything else, costs money. Scientists' pet projects are being turned down every day by the funding bodies. Why were the taxpayers, who paid for the research, never asked whether they wanted to have to deal with the possibility of human cloning? Instead, yet again, we have been presented with a fait accompli. There is an irony in scientists' arguments that 'moral panics' should not be allowed to stop the supposed medical benefits of cloning: if anyone had been consulted, public outrage would be much less likely. The worldwide concern at the possibility of human clones shows that we have to find a better way to manage science: otherwise we will always end up being led by the nose by scientists.|
|David King is the editor of Gen Ethics News where this article first appeared. Issue 16. PO Box 6313, London N16 0DY, England.|
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