Why Cloning Should Not Be Regulated

By Jennifer Peterson

          For centuries, man has been genetically modifying everything from food to dogs by using a process called selective breeding.  This process takes the best of what you have and makes more of it, or mixes the best of one with the best of another to see what happens.  Even though this process is relatively refined, it is still subject to trial and error.  Today’s cloning technology allows scientists to identify the genetic quality that they want to reproduce and insert it directly into a plant or animal, effectively eliminating the trial and error phase of selective breeding.  Regulating cloning, or worse, banning it altogether, would limit the progress of scientific advancement significantly.  The potential benefits for society range from increasing the viability of crops to curing the world of genetic diseases.  If cloning were banned altogether, the scientific community, with these breakthroughs in their sights, would be forced to take their experiments underground to avoid political repercussions.

          The opposition insists on the regulation of cloning and is suggesting a permanent ban, arguing that cloning in any way is unethical.  Some take the position that scientists can not be trusted, ethically, to know when the experiments should stop, therefore, the scientific community would be unable to effectively regulate themselves.  There has yet to be an organization, that all agrees upon, to enforce regulations on the scientific community in regards to this issue.  Another fear of the opposition, is that government funding and/or funding from the private sector would determine which research would move forward according to its profitability factor, putting the wants and needs of society secondary to monetary gain.

          Without regulation scientists would be free to make advances in cloning research that would benefit society.  Since the discovery of DNA, scientific technologies have been moving forward to find ways to benefit society with its knowledge.  The techniques used by scientists in the field of genetic engineering are quickly becoming standard practice in modifying plants and animals for the greater good.  According to "Cloning plants" in Farm Industry News, 15 Feb. 1999, researchers at USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in Woodward, Oklahoma, along with Russian scientists, have patented a hybrid between corn and its distant relative, eastern gamagrass, which can naturally clone itself.  The successful development of this hybrid should lead to the development of hybrid corn lines that can reproduce themselves. Eventually, these advancements should lead to an increase in viable crops and the reduction of labor and processing costs in the farming industry.  Cloning plants is not limited to farming advancements.  Gene splicing and cross species genetic engineering are scientific tools that may be used one day to create a plant that can produce human insulin, and then, cloning could be used to mass produce this plant for pharmaceutical companies.

           The medical benefits of cloning have the potential to bring society to a whole new level of physical wellness.  Stem cell research promises to make way for the treatment of many disorders by replacing damaged or diseased cells with cells that are genetically compatible with the person being treated.  According to the Chief Medical Officer’s Expert Group on Therapeutic Cloning, “Examples might include the use of insulin-secreting cells for diabetes; nerve cells in stroke or Parkinson’s disease; or liver cells to repair a damaged organ" ( "Stem Cell Research..."). The scientific potential is more than encouraging for those in our society battling these ailments and others like them.  What is even more exciting is that cloning research is not only trying to eliminate infertility, but it has also opened doors to repairing genetic defects in utero.  Essentially using today’s technology to identify a genetic defect before a child is  born, and repairing the damage or eliminating the disease with a medical procedure while the child is still inside its mothers womb.   Children who would have been born with defects or diseases would instead be born healthy, society as a whole could only benefit.

          Banning is the most extreme form of regulation that is being proposed for this issue, and it is also the most dangerous for several reasons.  First, to ban cloning altogether is to stop the progress being made towards the benefits of society as listed above.  Second, with the advances made so far, and the promise of future discovery, a ban would force the scientific community and those seeking knowledge in this field to take their experimentation underground.  The dangers of this extreme become obvious when you picture thousands of desperate people illegally obtaining unregulated genetic material on the black market.  This grim reality is unnecessary, the scientific community itself has always been held to a higher standard by society, and they have lived up to that standard in exchange for the promise of the overall human benefit.  With this in mind, take into consideration the fact that scientific advancements have a reputation for delivering what society wants. “This consensus about benefits has expressed itself as consistently strong public support for public funding and basic research, as well as strong support for the freedom of scientists to set their own research agendas, limited only by their curiosity, their imaginations, and our commonly agreed-upon moral and ethical norms" ("Human Cloning...").  In the past, it has been this relationship between science and society that consistently works toward the greater good, the scientific community has given us no reason to change that now.

            In conclusion, science has made some significant advances in cloning plants and animals, and is determined to increase the long term benefits of cloning for society.  These techniques and technologies need time to be developed, modified and perfected so that the next level of advancement can be attained with even fewer genetic casualties.  The medical potential, for this research, could prove to be the greatest contribution to society that science has ever held claim to.  If allowed to move forward, the benefits could escalate to level of discovering cures for all the genetic diseases currently known to man.  The scientific community has brought us this far, modern technology has already done wonders for society as a whole.  We have no reason to believe that they can’t or won’t live up to our expectations in regards to this cloning issue.     

 

Works Cited

 

"Cloning plants."  Farm Industry News.  15 Feb.1999.  20 May 2003.   
         <
http://farmindustrynews.com/ar/farming_cloning_plants/index.htm>

"Human Cloning and Human Dignity: An Ethical Inquiry."  The President's Council on Bioethics, Washington, D.C.  July 
         2002.  19 May 2003.  <http://bioethics.gov/reports/cloningreport/options.html>

"Stem Cell Research: Medical Progress with Responsibility."  Chief Medical Officer’s Expert Group on Therapeutic Cloning,
        Department of Health. 16 August 2000.  10 May 2003. <
http://www.doh.gov.uk/cegc/stemcellreport.htm>