Wednesday, April 27, 2011

'Human cloning' is no disguise, U of M

This morning the University of Minnesota held a roundtable event "to discuss the impact an anti-research bill would have on the Minnesota bio-business community if it passes" (according to a University press release).

The bill in question is the ban on human cloning. The University says this:
The legislation ... is an attack on research disguised as a prohibition on human cloning, and is rapidly moving through the Minnesota legislature. It includes language that would make one type of human embryonic stem cell research a crime.

The bill would not just ban a particular type of stem cell research. It would send a chilling message to Minnesota's biomedical business community that special interest groups will dictate what types of research – and prospects for economic growth – are permitted.
The legislation is "disguised as a prohibition on human cloning"? Really? Here is what the legislation prohibits:
Human asexual reproduction accomplished by introducing nuclear material from one or more human somatic cells into a fertilized or unfertilized oocyte whose nuclear material has been removed or inactivated so as to produce a living organism at any stage of development that is genetically virtually identical to an existing or previously existing human organism.
Somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT), described above, is a process by which organisms are cloned. There is no debate about this! The bill simply bans human SCNT. It is a ban on the cloning of human organisms (i.e., human cloning).

There is a common distinction between "therapeutic" cloning (killing the cloned human organism in the embryonic stage for research) and "reproductive" cloning (implanting the cloned organism in a woman's uterus and allowing him or her to develop toward maturity). The legislation bans cloning itself, regardless of the intentions for the resulting human being. It says this very clearly.

The U of M says the cloning ban "would make one type of human embryonic stem cell research a crime." It's true that, since the bill is a ban on human cloning, it would prohibit using cloning to create new embryonic human beings in order to then kill those embryos by deriving stem cells. All other research -- which happens to include all current research in Minnesota, including all embryonic stem cell research -- would be unaffected.

Tomorrow I will further address the roundtable event, including the University's claim that the cloning ban would "send a chilling message to Minnesota's biomedical business community."