Americans to Ban Cloning

Time for Candor on the Cloning of Embryos

Date: 01/25/2002

Nigel M. de S. Cameron, Ph.D.
Dean, The Wilberforce Forum
Director, Council for Biotechnology Policy
Founding Editor, Ethics & Medicine

The British government, wrote the New Scientist in a trenchant editorial, “have too easily swallowed the line that cloning human embryos is essential to medical progress. It is not . . . Like stuck records, ministers and policy makers continue to enthuse about therapeutic cloning even though the majority of bench scientists no longer think it’s possible or practicable to treat patients with cells derived from cloned embryos. They have already moved on to investigating the alternatives.” (Brave New Medicine, Dec. 1, 2001). Just how right the New Scientist was is becoming clearer by the day. But it became very clear indeed yesterday. And it was appropriate that the New Scientist broke the story.

Under the startling headline “Ultimate Stem Cell Discovered,” Sylvia Westphall reports in today’s issue as follows:

“A stem cell has been found in adults that can turn into every single tissue in the body. It might turn out to be the most important cell ever discovered.

Until now, only stem cells from early embryos were thought to have such properties. If the finding is confirmed, it will mean cells from your own body could one day be turned into all sorts of perfectly matched replacement tissues and even organs.

If so, there would be no need to resort to therapeutic cloning—cloning people to get matching stem cells from the resulting embryos. Nor would you have to genetically engineer embryonic stem cells (ESCs) to create a “one cell fits all” line that does not trigger immune rejection. The discovery of such versatile adult stem cells will also fan the debate about whether embryonic stem cell research is justified.”

Plainly, these extraordinary claims, appearing in the staid pages of New Scientist, underline the wisdom of Senator Sam Brownback’s stalled initiative to seek a 6-month moratorium on embryo cloning. And they point out afresh the hubris of Advanced Cell Technology’s Mike West in claiming that any such delay would lead to more than 500,000 deaths—a claim that the senate committee that heard it should have laughed to scorn.

For more information, contact Mariam Bell at 703-904-7322 (ext. 3630), or
Permission to reprint with acknowledgment is granted.