News Articles

British panel gives scientists OK for ‘therapeutic’ embryo cloning

LONDON (BP)–British scientists received permission Feb. 27 to clone human embryos after a government committee judged that copying human cells could lead to the development of treatments for disease, CNSNews.com reported.

Pro-life groups criticized the decision and said the House of Lords panel was biased in favor of research scientists. “This committee is a put-up job. We have little confidence in it,” said Peter Garrett, director of research at the charity Life.

The panel was set up last year to determine whether research involving cloning was necessary to develop stem-cell treatments that have shown promise in treatment of some diseases.

“Research on early human embryos raises difficult moral and scientific issues on which there are strong and sincerely held views,” said Richard Harries, bishop of Oxford and chairman of the House of Lords panel. “After looking at all the issues very carefully, the committee was not persuaded that it would be right to prohibit all research on early embryos.”

The government’s fertility regulator, the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority (HFEA), is expected to begin issuing embryo-cloning licenses almost immediately. Scientists will only be able to experiment with embryos within two weeks of conception, and an HFEA license will be mandatory.

Pro-life activists described the decision as a foregone conclusion.

“The appointment of a chairman who has previously given strong support to so-called ‘therapeutic’ cloning, and the non-appointment of anyone who spoke in favor of an amendment to delay the implementation of ‘therapeutic’ cloning legislation, speak for themselves,” Garrett said.

Life said the committee was wrong to draw a line between “therapeutic cloning,” which aims to develop stem cells and cures for diseases, and “reproductive cloning,” the copying of an already-born person. Reproductive cloning is outlawed in Britain.

“[The committee’s decision] is part of a larger effort to con the public into believing that therapeutic cloning is not cloning,” Garrett said.

His concerns about bias were echoed by Antony Ozimic, spokesman for the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC).

“Only pro-cloning scientists were explicitly invited by the committee to give evidence and the committee’s scientific adviser was an advocate of human cloning,” Ozimic said. “This report will have no credibility.”

The pro-lifers say that recent scientific developments in the area of adult stem cells will eliminate any need to experiment on or clone embryos.

“Research using stem cells from adults in various parts of the world is showing promise as an alternative to cloned embryo cells,” Ozimic said.

The U.S. House of Representatives voted last July to ban all human cloning. The legislation is now being debated in the Senate, where lawmakers have until the end of the current legislative session to schedule a vote if the measure is to have any chance of becoming law.

In November, Boston-based Advanced Cell Technology claimed it had created a human embryo clone.
Wendling is the London bureau chief with www.CNSNews.com. Used by permission.

    About the Author

  • Mike Wendling