From Catholic bishops to a UFO-related organization to dedicated scientists and concerned ethicists, the debate on cloning has many players.
As a congressional subcommittee heard testimony this week on whether America is ready to enter the controversial world of human cloning, various proponents and opponents of the widely criticized scientific procedure have elbowed their way into the national spotlight.
Panos Zavos, an in vitro fertilization specialist, has teamed with Italian doctor Severino Antinori to provide infertile couples with children who are clones of either parent, according to a March 28 New York Times article.
Another frontrunner in the human cloning race is a religious group called the Rael movement and their company, CLONAID. Brigitte Boisselier, a chemist and leader of the self-proclaimed largest UFO-related organization, wants to offer infertile couples and others a way to have children.
In a March 28 CNN.com article, Boisselier, whose religious group believes life on Earth was genetically engineered by extraterrestrial beings, said 50 members of the movement have already volunteered to carry the clone of a dead 10-month-old boy.
Both Zavos and Boisselier testified before the congressional committee on Wednesday.
The human cloning question has also garnered opposition from other scientists and religious leaders.
“It is not responsible at this stage to even consider the cloning of humans,” Rudolf Jaenisch, a biologist at MIT who has cloned mice, told CNN.com. Jaenisch was one of many scientists who testified before the House committee, arguing that human cloning is not safe at this time.
Since Scottish researchers cloned a sheep named Dolly in 1997, scientists have managed to clone worms, mice and cattle using the same methods. However, the failure rate has been alarmingly high at 98 percent, according to ABCNEWS.com.
In cloning, the genetic material from an unfertilized egg is removed and replaced with the DNA of the animal to be cloned. The egg is stimulated to begin cell division through electric shock and is then implanted into a surrogate who carries it to term.
Ron Green, an ethicist and religion professor at Dartmouth, told ABCNEWS.com “cloning is a hit-or-miss affair right now.”
The Catholic Church has also taken a firm stand against human cloning.
CNN.com quoted Bishop Elio Sgreccia, head of the John Paul II Institute for Bioethics, who said human cloning raised profoundly disturbing ethical issues. Human cloning has also been labeled “grotesque” by the Vatican.
On Jan. 22, Britain became the first country to legalize the cloning of human embryos, and the United States could follow suit in the coming years as the issue becomes the topic of further discussion.
The United States does not have an outright ban on human cloning, although four states have banned it.
USA TODAY reported in a March 29 article that the congressional committee will push a bill to ban human cloning within weeks.
President Bush expressed his support for a law that would ban human cloning, according to a March 29 Washington Post article.
“The president believes that no research–no research–to create a human being should take place in the United States,” White House press secretary, Ari Fleischer, told the Post.
Jodi Mathews is the communications director for the BCE.