By Tom Strode
WASHINGTON (BP)–The White House, members of Congress and the scientist who cloned the first mammal expressed opposition to human cloning as a House of Representatives panel held a hearing on the controversial subject.
A subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee heard testimony March 28 from both advocates and opponents of human cloning. While some members of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations were prepared to back a ban on such research, according to reports, others outside the hearing room also spoke out.
President Bush opposes human cloning “on moral grounds” and believes “no research to create a human being should take place in the United States,” White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said the day of the hearing.
Bush supports President Clinton’s order barring federal funds for human cloning and will work with Congress on a legislative ban on human cloning, regardless of the source of funding, Fleischer said.
Ian Wilmut, the Scottish researcher whose team cloned the sheep Dolly in 1997, denounced plans to clone a human being, according to The Guardian, a British newspaper. In an article released the same day as the hearing in the journal Science, Wilmut and coauthor Rudolf Jaenisch, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology biologist, said the cloning method was deeply flawed, resulting in large numbers of miscarriages and abnormalities among animals, The Guardian reported.
“There is no reason to believe that the outcomes of attempted human cloning will be any different,” they wrote.
Wilmut told The Guardian, “Attempting to clone a human would be extremely cruel for the woman and children involved, and there could be a backlash against valuable research into cloning to create cells for therapeutic purposes.”
Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, Rep. J.C. Watts of Oklahoma, chairman of the House Republican Conference, issued a terse statement, saying, “Dolly the sheep will learn to fly before the U.S. House of Representatives condones human cloning.”
The subcommittee heard from cloning advocates, including some who hope to clone human beings.
Brigitte Boisselier, science director of the Raelian religious sect, said her group has begun cloning research at a secret site in the United States, according to The Washington Post. She refused to say whether the group would obey a government directive warning it not to clone a human being without Food and Drug Administration approval, The Post reported.
Raelians believe human beings are clones of alien beings.
Panos Zavos, a former University of Kentucky professor, told the subcommittee he and others hope to clone a human being within two years outside the United States, according to The Post.
Other witnesses and some panel members expressed opposition to human cloning, although some couched their opposition in terms of “human reproductive cloning,” apparently making it unclear whether they were against the cloning of human embryos for research purposes.
Ben Mitchell, a biomedical consultant for the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, submitted written testimony calling for an immediate ban on human cloning, including of embryos.
Baptist Press. Used with permission.