Human cloning takes center stage at Capitol Hill hearing
Scientists called human cloning ethically risky and likely to produce deformed babies, even as researchers who plan to move forward defended their plans yesterday before a congressional panel.
WASHINGTON (AP) - Scientists called human cloning ethically risky and likely to produce deformed babies, even as researchers who plan to move forward defended their plans yesterday 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-Fla., went further: "It interferes with the natural order of things," he said. "People have a right to their own genetic makeup, which should not 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 invitro 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 Armstrongs that would fly us to the moon," said Panos Zavos, 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 fertility doctor, Severino Antinori, and the pair has promised to clone a human within a year. They have promised to find a country - not the United States - where it is legal.
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.
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.
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.
Thursday, March 29, 2001
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