WASHINGTON, DC, April 11, 2002 (ENS) - Whether the cloning of human beings is done for reproduction or for research, it is still unethical, President George W. Bush said Wednesday. He endorsed a bill now pending in Congress to completely ban the procedure in the United States.
Reproductive cloning is aimed at producing a child. Research cloning involves the creation of cloned human embryos which are then destroyed to derive stem cells that can then be used to overcome diseases.
"Allowing cloning would be taking a significant step toward a society in which human beings are grown for spare body parts and children are engineered to custom specifications; and that's not acceptable," Bush said.
Acknowledging that biomedical technology is moving towards precise therapies that soon will be custom made for each individual's genetic makeup, Bush said, "We're on the threshold of historic breakthroughs against AIDS and Alzheimer's Disease and cancer and diabetes and heart disease and Parkinson's Disease. And that's incredibly positive."
"Our age may be known to history as the age of genetic medicine, a time when many of the most feared illnesses were overcome," said the President. "Our age must also be defined by the care and restraint and responsibility with which we take up these new scientific powers."
"Advances in biomedical technology must never come at the expense of human conscience," said the President. "As we seek what is possible, we must always ask what is right, and we must not forget that even the most noble ends do not justify any means."
The President supports legislation introduced by Senator Sam Brownback, a Kansas Republican, and Senator Mary Landrieu, Louisiana Democrat, to ban both forms of cloning. A similar bill was passed last year by the U.S. House of Representatives, the Human Cloning Prohibition Act.
Bush said the Brownback bill is what most Americans want. "It has wide support across the political spectrum, liberals and conservatives support it, religious people and nonreligious people support it. Those who are pro-choice and those who are pro-life support the bill," he said.
Representing the biotechnology industry, Carl Feldbaum, president of the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) is not in agreement with the President on a complete human cloning ban.
“While we wholeheartedly agree that reproductive uses of this technology should be banned," Feldbaum said, "the Brownback bill would criminalize research into therapeutic applications for people suffering from Parkinson’s disease and juvenile diabetes, as well as other afflictions. Because it goes too far, the biotechnology industry opposes this bill. We favor the bipartisan efforts of Senator Specter, Senator Feinstein and Senator Kennedy, which would ban the cloning of human beings while allowing medical research to go forward."
In Moscow Wednesday, the Russian parliament gave preliminary approval to a bill that imposes a five year ban on human cloning and says cloned human embryos bans the import of cloned embryos into Russia. The measure does not ban animal or therapeutic cloning, and says the ban on human cloning could be either extended or revoked after five years. The lawmakers turned down a proposed amendment to make the ban permanent.
In the European Union there is a ban on reproductive cloning and on human germ line modification that remains unchallenged.
A five year moratorium on cloning human beings was implemented in the United States in March 1997 as an immediate response to concerns raised by the cloning of a sheep named Dolly from genetic material of an adult cell. Since then, many mammals have been cloned - mice, cows, a guar, and a cat.
Speaking in Abu Dhabi, Dr. Antinori described the current U.S. five year moratorium and ban on human cloning as "a violation of human rights" and insisted that everyone has the right to pass on their individual characteristics to their offspring or to use cloning as a means to treat infertility.
President Bush said Wednesday, "I stand firm in my opposition to human cloning. And at the same time, we will pursue other promising and ethical ways to relieve suffering through biotechnology. This year for the first time, federal dollars will go towards supporting human embryonic stem cell research consistent with the ethical guidelines I announced last August."
The National Institutes of Health is also funding a broad range of animal and human adult stem cell research. Adult stem cells which do not require the destruction of human embryos and which yield tissues which can be transplanted without rejection are more versatile that originally thought, Bush said.