Monday, April 25, 2011

Human cloning: Not fear, but facts

A man named Don Reed, writing at Daily Kos, argues that proponents of the MCCL-backed human cloning ban in Minnesota are using "the fear of cloning" to gain support for the measure.

In fact, it is opponents of the bill who have shamelessly tried to manipulate people's emotions with false claims. Those of us who support the bill have spent our time working to correct all the misinformation -- propagated by Reed and others -- regarding human cloning, stem cell research and what the legislation under consideration would actually do.

Reed's piece is hardly worth addressing, but I will correct one fundamental falsehood. In his defense of so-called "therapeutic" cloning, he describes somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) this way:
Egg and skin cell [actually, enucleated egg with genetic material from skin cell put inside] are placed in salt water, and stimulated with a mild shock of electricity. Five to seven days go by. The microscopic egg is opened, and the stem cells are removed.
No. SCNT does not result in a "microscopic egg," which (suspiciously) one must wait five to seven days before using. Rather, successful SCNT results in an embryo (as the National Institutes of Health explains), an organism at the embryonic stage of his or her development. The cloned embryo must be grown to the five-to-seven-day stage before stem cells theoretically could be derived from it.

There is no doubt about this. Reed is simply ignorant (and yet making bold claims anyway!) when he writes:
This [using SCNT to produce cloned human embryos to be destroyed for research] is what opponents attack, calling it the murder of "young humans."

Where? Show me one "young human" in the above process. There are none.
Successful human SCNT produces a living and whole (though immature) organism of the human species. The ethical question is whether we may create these very young members of our species specifically for the purpose of killing them and harvesting their useful parts.