GENTECH archive 8.96-97


Fwd: John Fagan on cloning, etc.

Forwarded message:
From: (Richard Wolfson)
Date: 97-04-20 17:38:10 EDT

 No Chance for Factory Recalls on Serious Genetic Errors

Since Dolly and her maker hit the news last month, we've heard some very
interesting motives for cloning humans: perpetuate yourself or preserve a
loved one; generate spare body parts; create legions of someone with
"superior" traits. The first scenario is based on flawed understanding: A
clone and the original are not the same person. They just have identical
genes, but so do identical twins. The "spare parts" scenario is also
gruesomely inappropriate, since clones would be humans in their own right.

The "superior" traits or Boys from Brazil scenario carries the same
trainload of ethical and moral problems that accompany any eugenics scheme:
What does "superior" mean, and how will that judgment impact future
generations? In addition it brings hazards resulting from progressive
accumulation of genetic errors in successive "generations" of clones.

Ian Wilmut, Dolly's creator, had other motives when he set about creating
Dolly. He developed his cloning method as a tool for use in germline
genetic engineering, which is the manipulation of genes in an early embryo
or fertilized egg. When that embryo develops into a mature individual,
every cell in their body, including reproductive cells (eggs or sperm) will
be genetically altered. Therefore, if the scientist's genetic scalpel
happens to slip, the mistake will not just harm the individual, but will be
passed on to their progeny, thereby creating a new genetic disease that
will plague all generations to come.

Wilmut himself abhors using his method to manipulate the genes of human
embryos, but its mere existence creates the opportunity for others who are
less ethically developed to do so. And some of these people are in high and
powerful places in the scientific and biotechnology communities.

Human germline manipulation is tremendously attractive commercially.
Although the market for bone fide gene therapy is limited to from a few
patients with rare genetic diseases and possibly others with cancer or
AIDS, the market for what might be called "genetic improvement" is
massive-it is every set of prospective parents. "For $299.95 your child can
be born with the Mozart, Einstein, or Michael Jordan gene."

Intriguing as this possibility might seem at first, there is a serious
downside: Scientists acknowledge that these mistakes are unavoidable in
genetic engineering. Automakers can recall and correct defective products,
but the manufacturing defects resulting from germline genetic manipulations
cannot be recalled. They are irreversible. Therefore, if applied widely,
germline engineering will progressively corrupt the blueprint of our
species with genetic errors. These will irreversibly burden future
generations with new genetic diseases, causing millions to suffer.

The measures that President Clinton has implemented are a good start toward
staving off this danger, but ultimately we need laws explicitly banning
human cloning and germline manipulations. Five European nations already
have such laws. We need similar legislation here in the US and

President Clinton has made a good start toward staving off this danger, but
ultimately we need laws explicitly banning human cloning and germline
manipulations. Several European nations have taken the lead in passing such
laws. We should follow suit and also establish international treaties
similar to those governing nuclear weapons.

If governments fail to transmit clear signals regarding this seductive but
dangerous technology, the welfare of humanity could well take a back seat
to return on investment.

Dr. John B. Fagan
Molecular Biologist

Richard Wolfson,  PhD
Campaign to Ban Genetically Engineered Food
Natural Law Party
500 Wilbrod Street
Ottawa, ON  Canada  K1N 6N2
Tel. 613-565-8517  Fax. 613-565-6546
NLP Website: