Friends of the Earth

Response to Announcement That a Private Company Has Cloned Human Embryos for Experimentation Purposes

Date: 11/26/2001

Brent Blackwelder
President, Friends of the Earth
November 26, 2001

The announcement yesterday that human embryos have been cloned by Advanced Cell Technology (ACT) should be deeply disturbing for anyone who cares for our planet and its people. Friends of the Earth (FoE), has opposed all human cloning because it violates two fundamental principles shared by environmentalists: the precautionary principle, and respect for nature.  We are further concerned that the pursuit of this unproven technology is being driven by entrepreneurial greed and scientific arrogance under the guise of alleviating human suffering.  Dangling cures for a host of diseases, ACT–and others who will surely follow in their wake—seek to throw open a Pandora’s Box of technologies that could easily do more harm than good.

In order to safeguard the environment and human life, FoE calls for the following:

  • A ban on all human reproductive cloning and genetic germline modifications, including “designer babies”
  • A moratorium on human therapeutic cloning until alternatives are explored
  • Safeguards to prevent export and black market distribution of cloned or genetically modified human embryos.

The scientists touting this technology and the bioethicists who rally behind it fail to see the slippery path on which they tread and the grotesque manipulation of nature that they are conducting.  They have isolated themselves from the sensibilities of the American public.

For example, two years ago the same company that announced a cloned human embryo put a human nucleus in a cow egg and let it divide.

Last year, they tried to clone an endangered species of ox (the Gaur) and it died. Even if it had survived, the creature would have been the genetically engineered product of more than one species and it would have distracted from the pressing need to protect endangered species habitat, rather than generate genetic hybrids as zoo specimens.

The precautionary principle is a cornerstone of environmentalism and it should be applied to the new human genetic technologies. It requires that we have some regard for the consequences of our actions before we carry them out. In this century alone, the list of unforeseen and unintended consequences of modern industrial civilization is enormous; so is the attendant economic and environmental damage. The unforeseen and devastating consequences of the use of CFCs, DDT, and PCBs illustrate the need for this underlying principle.

Environmentalists embrace an ethic of respect for nature and strive to demonstrate the interdependence of humans and our natural world. Proponents of cloning and inheritable modification, on the other hand, extol the virtues of “re-making Eden” — of “improving” what nature has given us. For example, “designer babies” or the cloning of pets that don’t cause allergies will lead us down a slippery slope toward the redesign of the rest of life.  Indeed, if society allows the cloning of human beings today, inheritable genetic manipulation of humans and all other species cannot be far behind.

Contact: Mark Helm, 202-783-7400