CLONING: HAS SCIENCE GONE TOO FAR?INTRODUCTIONFor years the subject of cloning has captured the imaginations of authors, movie directors and much of the human population. Cloning is the prospect of creating an animal or even a person that is genetically identical to its “parent.” Until recently the subject seemed farfetched and fictional, because no one really realized how close we had actually advanced in cloning research. It was during February of 1997 that an embryologist, Dr. Ian Wilmut, announced the birth of a cloned lamb named Dolly.
She was the first ever successfully cloned mammal from an adult cell. What Dr. Wilmut did was amazing. He took the DNA from a six-year-old ewe and fused it with the egg of another ewe after removing the second ewe’s own DNA. After fusing, the cell began to divide as would a regular embryo. The embryo was then implanted in a third ewe who only a few months later gave birth to Dolly 1 .
Upon news of this, many people began to question the possibility of not only creating genetically identical sheep, but humans as well. There has been much controversy on whether or not the cloning of humans as well as animals is ethical or even moral. Also there has been much discussion as to whether or not the benefits of cloning outweigh the dangers.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS IN CLONING RESEARCH?There is no doubt that Dr. Wilmut’s new discoveries have brought an uproar of excitement between not only the scientific community, but the general public as well. Groups such as farmers, surgeons and even environmentalists have shown various interests in cloning research.
The farming community has expressed much intrigue in cloning for the purpose of being able to reproduce copies of their best animals. For example, a dairy farmer would much rather be able to take his best dairy cow and recreate it by copying its DNA as opposed to breeding it and taking a chance that the calf would either be male or an unprofitable female2. Medical doctors have also been quite interested in the recent discoveries of Dr. Wilmut as well. Cloning research has brought them one step closer to the possibility of actually cloning organs. The advantages of this would be the ability to take someone’s DNA and use it to create a healthy and compatible organ to replace one that is failing3. A good example of this would be a heart transplant patient. Scientists would be able to create a heart within a laboratory setting and implant it into the patient.
Environmentalists have also jumped on the cloning “bandwagon.” There has been discussion of using cloning techniques in breeding endangered species which have trouble reproducing in captivity. Panda bears would be a good example of this. WHAT ARE THE DANGERS IN CLONING?There have been several objections that are related to the dangers in cloning animals as well as the possibility of cloning humans. There have been many scientists who do not believe that this research should be continued due to the dangers that it presents.
There were complications in the birth of Dolly. She was the only successful birth out of 277 tries within 29 different ewes4. All 276 of the remaining embryos died before they were born. As Dr. Colin Stewart, a noted embryolgist at the National Cancer Institute, was quoted as saying “…the high rate of spontaneous abortion suggests, cloning sometimes damages DNA. As a result Dolly could develop a number of diseases that could shorten her life5.” During a United States hearing concerning government funding for cloning research, Representative Vernon Ehlers of Michigan pointed out one danger in human cloning. ” ‘What if in the cloning process you produce someone with two heads and three arms.’ he said. ‘Are you simply going to euthanize and dispose of that person? The answer is no. We’re talking about human life6.'” Another factor to take into consideration is the psychological repercussions that a person may face if they were to be born as a clone. There may be certain pressures for them to be or act a certain way. Perhaps society might expect too much or even too little out of them because of whom from which they were cloned. Their entire individuality could get lost in the whole process as well, due to the mere fact that they are identical to the parent.
Aside from the dangers in cloning people, there are also dangers related to cloning farm animals as well. “Cloned animals, FitzGerald said, might sound appealing-scientists could clone the buttery Kobe beef cattle or the meatiest pigs, for example. But these cloned creatures would also share an identical susceptibility to disease, he cautioned. An entire cloned herd could be wiped out overnight if the virus swept through it7.” While it may seem more profitable to farmers to clone their animals, it actually could end up costing them more in the long run.
CONCLUSIONDO THE BENEFITS OUTWEIGH THE DANGERS?There is no doubt that the science of cloning has brought mankind further ahead than anyone ever thought possible. But is it worth the risks? The answer is no. Every benefit that cloning presents can be easily counterned by an even greater danger. Take the possibility of saving endangered species. If, for instance, we were able to save the entire Panda bear population by means of cloning, we would still be unable to provide them with the natural habitat that they need. Let us not forget that it is the diminishing environment from which they come that is to blame for their extinction. And while it would be great to save the Panda bear population, we should focus our efforts more towards the real reason for their extinction.
As stated earlier, there are many possible genetic deficiencies that can result from cloning. Now, taking into consideration that factor, would there really be much demand for consumers to buy products that come from possibly genetically deffective animals? Of course not. If anything people would more likely stick to meat or dairy products that were produced in a natural environment.
Undoutedly, the most beneficial result that cloning can present is the ability to create organs. But, we must realize the risk involved as well. There would most likely be a great many failures before there were to be even one success. And there is no substantial evidence that this would even be possible. So the risk seems to greatly outweigh any possible benefit.
The risks involved in cloning people as well as animals are of a much greater magnitude than many people realize. Our society needs to begin weighing in the dangerous consequences before making any solid conclusions, because cloning may wind up costing us much more than we bargained for. NOTES1. Gina Kolata, “Scientist Reports First Cloning Ever of Adult Mammal,” New York Times Online, February 23, 1997, 1 (www.nytimes.com)2. J. Madeline Nash, “The Age of Cloning,” Time Magazine, March 10, 1997, Vol. 149, No.10, 1 (www.time.com)3. Kolata, “Scientist Reports First Cloning Ever of Adult Mammal,” 34. Nash, “The Age of Cloning,” Vol. 149, No.10, 35. Nash, “The Age of Cloning,” Vol. 149, No.10, 36. Katharine Q. Seelye, “Congressman Offers Bill to Ban Cloning of Humans,” New York Times Online, March 6, 1997, 17. Kolata, “With Cloning of a Sheep, Ethical Ground Shifts,” New York Times Online, February 24, 1997, 3Kass, Leon R. and James Q. Wilson. The Ethics of Human Cloning Washington, D.C.: The AE Press, 1998Kolata, Gina. “Scientist Reports First Cloning Ever of Adult Mammal.” New York Times Online (www.nytimes.com), 23 February 1997Kolata, Gina. “With Cloning Sheep, Ethical Ground Shifts.” New York Times Online (www.nytimes.com), 24 February 1997Nash, J. Madeline. ” The Age of Cloning.” Time Magazine (www.time.com), 10 March 1997Sleeye, Katharine. “Congressman Offers Bill to Ban Cloning of Humans.” New York Times Online (www.nytimes.com) 6 March 1997
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