British Government Gives Initial Approval to Human-Animal Cloning

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Sep 5, 2007   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

British Government Gives Initial Approval to Human-Animal Cloning Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
September 5,

London, England ( — The British government has opened a Pandora’s box that worries pro-life advocates because scientists will be allowed to create clones consisting of human and animal parts. The decision is the first step in the approval process and now a licensing committee will review two applications to engage in the research.

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority considered the proposals from scientists at King’s College London and Newcastle University. It said there was "no fundamental reason" to prevent the research.

"However, public opinion is very finely divided, with people generally opposed to this research unless it is tightly regulated and it is likely to lead to scientific or medical advancements," it added. "This is not a total green light for cytoplasmic hybrid research, but recognition that this area of research can, with caution and careful scrutiny, be permitted."

A new poll the HFEA conducted of 2,000 British residents finding that only 35 percent agreed with making human-animal hybrids while 48 percent disagreed.

Researchers want to create the hybrids and expect the licensing committee to meet in November to consider the idea further.

Lyle Armstrong of Newcastle University’s Institute for Human Genetics, told the London Guardian newspaper he thought the decision was good news.

"It is a positive outcome, not just for our work but for the progress of British science in general, and we hope that this will lead to new technologies to benefit everyone," he said.

However, Anthony Ozimic, a spokesman for the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, said his group is upset by the decision.
"This is not just a case of the ‘yuck factor,’" he told the newspaper. "There are grave ethical and moral objections to this research and the way it is being promoted.

The researchers are pursuing human-animal chimeras and want to infuse DNA from the eggs of dead cows with that of humans to create embryos that can be killed and harvested for stem cells. Any human embryos created under the process — unique human beings — will be killed two weeks after creation.

If the requests get final approval, Britain would be set apart from the United States, Canada and Australia, all of which prohibit the cloning of hybrids.

The researchers claim the process of inserting DNA into the cow eggs will allow them to gain a better understanding of some genetic diseases, such as motor neurone disease. They also say the chimeras can give them an access to stem cells and eggs that they don’t currently have.

They say the rates of donation of eggs by women at fertility clinics is low as few women want to undergo the egg extraction procedure because it is painful and has medical risks.

Dr. David King, who works for research watchdog Human Genetics Alert, told the Evening Standard newspaper he opposed the idea.

"We are not a pro-life group but creating embryos purely for the purpose of research turns the embryo into nothing more than a research tool and a source of raw biological material for experiments," he said.

Furthering the controversy, the British government has proposed legislation the parliament will debate later this year that will allow scientists to create human-animal hybrids.

The bill mandates that the created entity, an unborn child who is 99.9 percent human and less than one percent animal, be destroyed within two weeks and not be implanted in a mother’s womb.

Catholic Church leaders in England strongly oppose this cloning technique and the chimeras it will create, but they also oppose the destruction of the human embryo the cloning process creates.

“At the very least, embryos with a preponderance of human genes should be assumed to be embryonic human beings, and should be treated accordingly," Catholic leaders said in June.