Human Genetics Alert
For immediate release 16/8/00
Government wrong to allow embryo cloning
The Campaign Against Human Genetic Engineering (1) has today condemned the government's decision to back the creation of embryos by cloning, in order to extract stem cells. The decision paves the way for unscrupulous entrepreneurs to produce a baby by cloning: until there is a global ban on reproductive cloning there should be a moratorium on creating embryos by cloning. It is not sufficient for the government to ban reproductive cloning in the UK, since techniques developed in Britain, could be used anywhere. The government must actively lobby for an enforceable international treaty banning reproductive cloning.
The creation of embryos purely as a source of biological raw material also flies in the face of the principles of the current UK law, which says that embryos must be treated with respect. The creation of embryos purely as a source of biological material degrades their moral status, since it makes them nothing more than a means to achieving the desired end. This issue has not been properly debated, except in crude 'pro-life' terms, and there is evidence that the public, once it has been properly informed about the nature of the techniques, has profound ethical concerns on this point (2).
CAHGE does not believe that these major ethical concerns were adequately discussed by a committee dominated by scientists and doctors.
It is unnecessary to create embryos by cloning and, in fact, the companies pursuing embryonic stem cell transplantation research have stated that it is not viable to create embryos for treatment on a large scale, because of the shortage of human eggs. Furthermore, other highly promising alternatives, which do not raise major ethical issues, such as the use of stem cells from adults, should be pursued first.
Dr David King, coordinator of CAHGE said: "The government must not allow us to be railroaded into crossing fundamental ethical barriers by over-enthusiastic scientists and companies. We need a real public debate, rather than being talked down to by scientists."
For more information contact David King: 0208 809 4513. CAHGE's submission to the Donaldson committee is online at www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~cahge/cloning.htm
Notes for editors
1. The Campaign Against Human Genetic Engineering is a watchdog group focusing on issues related to human genetics and related technologies. CAHGE is not opposed to genetics research in principle, but is absolutely opposed to human cloning and germ line genetic engineering. CAHGE is not a 'pro-life' organisation.
2. The 1998 report by the Wellcome Trust, 'Public Perspectives on Human Cloning', showed that many interviewees were very concerned at the prospect of creating embryos purely to extract stem cells.