Monday, June 1, 2009

MN Independent gets cloning facts wrong

In a recent article about MCCL's legislative successes this year (full funding for Positive Alternatives, a ban on taxpayer funding of human cloning), the Minnesota Independent included this inaccurate passage:
The “human cloning” that MCCL opposes is not the actual cloning of people, but the process of inserting genetic material into an egg to create stem cells and potentially create new organs for transplant. The process is called somatic cell nuclear transfer and there are currently no human trials of the procedure.

No entities in Minnesota, or the United States for that matter, are known to be attempting to clone whole human beings.
In reality, somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) is the technique used to clone whole organisms. The nucleus of a donor's somatic cell is inserted into an enucleated egg to create a new embryo, an organism which is genetically virtually identical to the donor. In "therapeutic cloning," the young human is then killed in order to harvest his or her stem cells for research or (potentially) medical applications. (SCNT does not "create stem cells," as the author says; it creates a new human being who possesses stem cells, which we may extract by killing him or her.) In "reproductive cloning," the young human is impanted into a woman's uterus and allowed to continue to grow.

Apparently, the author thinks that only "reproductive cloning" counts as "the actual cloning of people," even though both types of cloning use the same technique, SCNT, to produce a new human being.

The second paragraph is also false. Research institutions around the world, including the University of Minnesota, are working on human SCNT for research purposes (therapeutic cloning). Thanks to legislation signed into law last month, Minnesota state funds cannot be used for this practice.