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Say no to human clones

Say no to human  clones

Tribune News Service

REMEMBER the human cloning controversies of the early 2000s? One reason they faded was that scientists were unable to clone non-human primates. With the news that monkeys have now been cloned in China, we should brace for a rerun of arguments for cloning humans. But human reproductive cloning would be every bit as misguided and dangerous now as it was then.
Back in 1971, James Watson of DNA double helix fame raised the prospect of human cloning becoming a reality. Then, in 1997, it was announced that scientists had created what had long been seen as impossible: a cloned mammal, a sheep dubbed 'Dolly'. The human clone debate picked up.
A few outliers claimed to be on the verge of producing human clones, including members of a"UFO religion". A number of scientists and fertility doctors argued that human reproductive cloning should proceed once safety wrinkles were worked out. Nature called it inevitable. But it soon became clear that most efforts to clone mammals failed, and that non-human primate cloning was especially hard. Most scientists concluded it was too dangerous to attempt in people.
Now we have the two cloned macaques. The failure rate was very high, with two reportedly healthy offspring born from 79 implanted embryos. And the method uses foetal cells, so it is no good for the favourite scenarios of human clone advocates: replacing a dead child, creating a genetically identical"saviour sibling" or recreating an Albert Einstein.
Most importantly, the existence of cloned monkeys doesn't alter the social and ethical case against human reproductive cloning, banned in more than 70 nations, including China, and 15 US states.
Subjecting a human to the dire risks shown in animal cloning, including in monkeys'82 would represent unethical human experimentation. So, too, would the psychological and emotional risks faced by a cloned child. Human cloning also comes with other unwarranted health risks: to the many women who would need eggs extracted, and to the dozens needed as surrogates for clone pregnancies, which have posed serious dangers in some species.
There are broader social and human rights issues, too. At least since Dolly, talk of human cloning has been linked, technically and ideologically, to other forms of reproductive human genetic manipulation. If the cloned monkeys revive talk of cloned humans, echoes will reverberate in the ongoing debate about germline editing in people.
Both procedures would risk opening the door to a world in which the affluent design their offspring's biology to produce purportedly superior children, layering new forms of inequality and discrimination onto existing disparities. There is no justifiable reason for taking such risks.