Thursday, April 28, 2011

University makes 'economic case' for human cloning

In a handout from yesterday's roundtable event, the University of Minnesota claims that the proposed human cloning ban would cost Minnesota 349 jobs and $48.4 million.

I don't know how the University got these numbers. As far as I know it has not provided any supporting analysis.

What I do know is this: the human cloning bill would not affect any current research (as the University has testified). So, the University's claim is that we will lose 349 jobs and $48.4 million by preventing something that is not actually happening, and that is not currently even being pursued. How can we lose jobs and money that we don't have in the first place?

Clearly those 349 jobs cannot be current jobs. Are they future jobs? In that case, it seems the University is assuming that it will sometime in the future decide to pursue human cloning, or SCNT (and that this decision will result in 349 additional jobs). How is that assumption justified? University researchers have indicated that SCNT may or may not be something they think worth pursuing in the future -- they simply want to keep the option open. It is a hypothetical possibility. That's all. There doesn't seem to be any basis for the University's bold economic claims.

I wonder: If what the legislation prohibits -- human SCNT (cloning) -- is so valuable, why isn't the University pursuing it right now?

Perhaps the University's economic claims are based not on hypothetical future human cloning work that would be thwarted, but rather on the "chilling effect" the mere passage of the legislation would allegedly have. So, the bill might not prevent any researchers from doing anything they ever want to do, but nevertheless it would send a "message" that Minnesota is not a good place for biomedical research. For that reason, the University may believe, we would lose future jobs and maybe even some current ones (researchers who don't like the "message" and decide to move).

It seems to me that if a researcher doesn't want to work here because the people of Minnesota, through their elected representatives, have decided that we will not permit the creation of new members of the human species by cloning specifically for the purpose of killing them and harvesting their useful parts -- well, if that person goes to do his work elsewhere, goodbye then.

Feel the chill
A second handout from yesterday's event, titled "The Economic Case for Stem Cell Research," looks at the economic benefits of stem cell research in other states and countries. Most of it seems irrelevant to the issue at hand (human cloning). Indeed, none of the economic benefits listed are said to be from SCNT (cloning), but rather are from the kind of research that is unaffected by the legislation under consideration.

SCNT is only mentioned on the handout once, when it says that "Australia recently repealed a ban on SCNT." That's all. No economic benefits of SCNT have been demonstrated.

It is ironic that the handout touts California as a prime example for us to follow. After wasting billions of dollars on embryo-destructive research, California is now redirecting its resources from therapeutic cloning to ethical research that is more therapeutically promising. According to the Los Angeles Times (Jan. 10, 2010), the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine is looking to "concentrat[e] its vast financial resources on projects that could cure conditions such as age-related macular degeneration, AIDS, sickle cell disease and various types of cancer" by "boosting therapies that ... rely on less glamorous adult stem cells."

Let me make one final point. These economic issues are beside the point if human cloning is a grave moral wrong. The University has given us no reason to think it's permissible to create living members of our species in order to kill them for our own ends.