Biotech Industry Pushes Hard for Human Cloning, Embryonic Stem Cells

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 5, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Biotech Industry Pushes Hard for Human Cloning, Embryonic Stem Cells

by Maria Gallagher Staff Writer
March 5, 2004

Washington, DC ( — Beware: lobbyists for the biotech industry could be showing up at a statehouse near you, trying to push legislation that will sacrifice tiny human lives in the interests of pseudo-science — and profits.

That is the conclusion of a special report by researchers at the Center for Public Integrity, a non-profit organization which specializes in investigative research.

The Center notes that the biotech industry has helped to block federal legislation that would ban human cloning for "therapeutic purposes." In so-called "therapeutic" cloning, a human being is created so that his or her stem cells can be harvested for research. The tiny human is then killed.

The industry’s lobbying group, known as the Biotechnology Industry Organization or BIO, is now pushing for the legalization of human cloning for research in five states. Two other states, California and New Jersey, have already approved similar anti-life measures.

"The Biotechnology Industry Organization is pushing in many states for legislation to legitimate the use of cloning to establish human embryo farms, and beyond that, the growing of cloned human fetuses to produce body parts," said Douglas Johnson, legislative director for National Right to Life.

"They also want state taxpayers to pay the costs of developing their human cloning industry. This is why U.S. Senators must be pressed to act on the Brownback-Landrieu bill to ban all human cloning, which has already passed the U.S. House, and which President Bush supports," Johnson added.

BIO has spent $12.7 million lobbying Congress and the Executive Branch since 1999, according to the Center. The biotech organization and its state affiliates have also pressured state legislatures to approve measures to legalize embryonic stem cell research, allow the sale of fetal body parts, and permit clone-and-kill techniques for questionable medical research.

At times, the BIO backs bills that outlaw reproductive cloning, however, the group is determined to enact legislation permitting therapeutic cloning.

Such cloning experiments are no longer limited to science fiction. In February, a pair of South Korean scientists announced that they had successfully cloned human beings and extracted stem cells from one of them.

The biotech industry claims that therapeutic cloning could be used to cure diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. However, initial trials have proven disastrous, and a number of scientific experts believe that research involving adult stem cells, which does not involve the destruction of human life, holds much greater promise.

A number of Congressional representatives want to regulate cloning research. In fact, since 1997, more than forty bills have been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate to ban or regulate cloning research.

However, while there is almost universal support for banning reproductive cloning, or cloning which results in the delivery of a full-term baby, there is division in Congress about whether to allow clone-and-kill research.

State legislatures have also been scrambling to deal with the human cloning issue. Legislative bodies in the U.S. have considered nearly 100 bills on cloning over the past two years, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, which tracks legislation in the states.

Part of the biotech industry’s strategy appears to be to attempt to sell clone-and-kill research as a way to create jobs. States are told that they’ll suffer serious economic consequences if they don’t boost the biotech business.

In 2002, California became the first state in the nation to legalize therapeutic cloning. The Sunshine State’s controversial stand ushered in a new wave of biotech lobbying activity.

A study by the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council offered this ominous warning: "Competition for biotech jobs is getting tougher as rival states such as California and North Carolina, often with strong state-government support, organize to attract companies and jobs."

The study urged Massachusetts to enact legislation that it said would "enable life-sciences organizations to operate and innovate within a clear and predictable framework."

The anti-life California law has inspired copycat legislation in Massachusetts, Illinois, Maryland, New York, and Washington. The preamble in all the bills states, "An estimated 128 million Americans suffer from the crippling economic and psychological burden of chronic, degenerative, and acute diseases, including diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease."

And there is more evidence that the biotech industry is basically writing the therapeutic cloning bills which are introduced in state legislatures.

For instance, the beginning of New Jersey’s Stem Cell Research law is nearly identical to the California legislation. But pro-life advocates say the New Jersey law ultimately went much further, becoming the worst cloning law in the nation.

The New Jersey legislation, signed by Gov. Jim McGreevey, authorizes "research involving the derivation and use of human embryonic stem cells, human embryonic germ cells, and human adult stem cells, including somatic cell nuclear transplantation."
Somatic cell nuclear transplantation is just another way of describing cloning.

The New Jersey law also allows the sale of embryonic and fetal material for "reasonable payment," thereby promoting the trafficking of human body parts.

The law purportedly bans reproductive cloning, which is defined as the "replication of a human individual by cultivating a cell with genetic material through the egg, embryo, fetal and newborn stages into a new human individual."

However, pro-life groups noted that the bill’s fuzzy language and questionable safeguards could permit not only the cloning of an embryo, but the implantation of the embryo as well.

As a result, New Jersey Right to Life, the Catholic Bishops of New Jersey, and members of the President’s Council of Bioethics all opposed the bill.

Two New Jersey lawmakers, Charlotte Vandervalk and Samuel D. Thompson, noted that there appeared to be "undue haste in releasing the bill without taking time to give full consideration to the practical and ethical questions."

The lawmakers noted that there were a number of problems with the bill, including "the potential that this bill creates for the forced abortion of cloned embryos…the potential for medical abuses and exploitation of women and children; and the creation of a new class of human—one designated for the purpose of experimentation."
New Jersey hosts some of the largest biotech companies in existence, including Merck & Co. and Johnson & Johnson.

The primary aim of the New Jersey legislation appears to be to enhance the biotech industry. The law itself proclaims, "The biomedical industry is a critical and growing component of New Jersey’s economy, and would be significantly diminished by limitations imposed on stem cell research."

In other words, say pro-life lawmakers, the bottom line appears to be money, not health.

Other states, however, have taken a different course, banning both therapeutic and reproductive cloning. Iowa, Arkansas, Michigan, and North Dakota have all given the boot to the biotech industry with legislative bans.