"STEM CELLS AND HUMAN CLONING"
Interesting interview of David Prentice:
David Prentice, Ph.D., was formerly a professor of life sciences at Indiana State University and adjunct professor of medical and molecular genetics at the Indiana University School of Medicine. He is the author of Stem Cells and Cloning and now works with the Family Research Council. This interview is reprinted with permission from the Center for Bioethics and Culture.
Stem Cells and Human Cloning
A professor of molecular genetics sees much heat but not too much light in the cloning debate.
CBC: You've been very involved in the whole stem cell/human cloning debate. Have you been surprised by how prominent these issues have become? And if so, why do you think the debate has become so heated?
Prentice: It has been a little surprising that the debate has heated up so much. It started during last fall's election campaign and has continued to build momentum. But in a way it is also not so surprising, given the success of embryo research proponents in passing Proposition 71 in California.
Ever since President Bush's decision on federal funding of embryonic stem cell research in August 2001, proponents of destructive embryo research have sought ways to open up funding for more research, both for more embryo destruction for cell lines, and also for cloning human embryos for research. The federal government has no cap on embryonic stem cell research funding, as long as the approved cell lines are used, but this is not enough for some. They want more embryos, and they want to make embryos specifically for research. A crack opened up for them with Prop. 71, and now the proponents of embryo research are trying desperately to open that crack wider.
However, there is a great deal of heat but little light. Embryonic stem cell research and cloning have made few advances, even in animal research. Lacking real results to back up claims of a need for more funding, and with little funding from the private sector, there is more hyperbole regarding the potential of embryo research, and the promise of imminent cures and imminent wealth for states that will support the research. It really plays on the emotions of desperate patients and their families, and the greed of those who want to do destructive embryo research.
CBC: What is the latest on the U.N. and the efforts to pass some kind of comprehensive ban on human cloning?
Prentice: Some very good news recently out of the U.N.! After three years of debate on banning human cloning, and efforts to block progress by a few nations that want to clone humans for experiments, the Sixth Committee of the U.N. on Feb. 18 passed a Declaration urging nations "to prohibit all forms of human cloning," noting that human cloning was "incompatible with human dignity and the protection of human life."
While the Declaration still must pass the General Assembly, all nations have a vote at the committee level, so the indications are that the Declaration will receive final passage. This is a great symbolic statement that the nations of the world do not condone creating human beings as experiments. [Editor's note: the General Assembly adopted the Declaration on Human Cloning on March 8.] (full interview)