Britain OKs Hybrid Human Cloning Combining Animal and Human DNA

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   May 19, 2008   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Britain OKs Hybrid Human Cloning Combining Animal and Human DNA

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by Steven Ertelt Editor
May 19
, 2008

London, England ( — Members of the British Parliament, on a lopsided vote, approved allowing scientists to make hybrids combining animal and human DNA in human cloning attempts. The House of Commons rejected an amendment to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill that would have prevented it.

MPs voted 336 to 176 against the amendment from Tory former minister Edward Leigh.

He said the use of hybrid clones cross an "entirely new ethical boundary," and turn the UK into a scientific "rogue state."

"In many ways we are like children playing with landmines without any concept of the dangers of the technology that we are handling," he said, according to a Press Association report.

Members of parliament also voted 286 to 223 to reject a second amendment that would have prohibited so-called "true hybrids" using the sex cells of a human and an animal.

Any human embryos created with human and animal DNA would be killed 14 days after their creation. Scientists say they want to engage in human cloning to obtain more embryonic stem cells for research even though they’ve never helped patients with diseases.

The votes are the first in a series of votes on amendment to the bioethics bill and others will likely try to limit late-term abortions, allow just one doctor to sign off on abortions and deal with other issues like in-vitro fertilization.

Before the vote, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown passionately defended the bill.

"I believe that we owe it to ourselves and future generations to introduce these measures and in particular to give our unequivocal backing, within the right framework of rules and standards, to stem cell research," he wrote.

Last month, two British pro-life groups filed a lawsuit challenging the legality of the two licenses awarded by the government to scientists allowing them to create hybrid human clones. Comment on Reproductive Ethics and the Christian Legal Centre are behind the suit to revoke the licenses for the grisly practice.

The suit came after the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne science team announced it had successfully created “admixed embryos” — hybrid clones featuring both human and animal parts.

The scientists had received licenses from the British government for the human cloning even though the British parliament had yet to approve the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill officially legally allowing their work.

In the United States, pro-life groups are backing a new Congressional bill that would ban the creation of hybrid clones with both human and animal parts. Rep. Chris Smith introduced the bill last week in the House of Representatives in late April.

Cardinal Justin Rigali, chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ committee on pro-life activities, welcomed the legislation as “an opportunity to rein in an egregious and disturbing misuse of technology to undermine human dignity.”

In January, leading pro-life Sen. Sam Brownback had choice words for the British researchers wanting to make hybrid clones.

"We need to ensure that experimentation and subsequent ramifications do not outpace ethical discussion and societal decisions," he said.

"The UK’s decision to allow the creation of human-animal hybrids is short-sighted, and further underscores our need here at home to enact" the ban, he added.