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(2001/03/29,09:21)

US Congress hears testimony on human cloning issue

Washington (dpa) - A scientist told United States Congress members Wednesday that he plans to use human cloning as a method to help infertile couples.

Panayoitis Zavos said that he is working with an Italian fertility specialist to establish a project to conduct the cloning in an unnamed country in the Mediterranean region. He rejected suggestions that cloning could lead to severe birth defects and lethal failures in the human infants created.

"We have no intention to step over dead bodies or deformed babies to accomplish this," Zavos told a subcommittee of the U.S. House energy and commerce committee.

A procession of mainstream medical and scientific witnesses told the committee that current methods for cloning larger mammals would inevitably lead to terrible defects in humans.

"It is simply too dangerous technically," said Thomas Okarma, president of biotechnology firm Geron Corporation, "and raises too many ethical and moral questions."

In cloning, genetic material in the nucleus of an egg cell would be removed and replaced with DNA from an adult cell. Experiments in other mammals - famously first with "Dolly," a sheep in Scotland - have resulted in unusually high rates of defects and other problems, such as still births and miscarriages.

Twelve countries already ban human cloning. Under U.S. policy, no federal money is permitted for human cloning, but private efforts could still be pursued.

Subcommittee chairman James Greenwood, a Pennsylvania Republican, asked, "The possible cloning of human beings is now not relegated to the world of fiction, and the question to the world is this - what should we do with this science?"

 


 

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