Missouri Cloning ‘Ban’ Misleading, Group Says

Daily News Article   —   Posted on October 27, 2006

(by Nathan Burchfiel, CNSNews.com) – Anti-cloning organizers in Missouri are criticizing a proposed amendment to the state’s constitution that they say would trick voters into supporting embryonic stem cell research under the guise of banning cloning.

The Missouri Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative, more commonly called Amendment 2, states that “no person may clone or attempt to clone a human being,” but several anti-cloning groups are urging residents of the state to vote against it.

The groups argue that while it appears to ban cloning, the amendment’s definition of cloning is inaccurate and will in fact create a constitutional right to create human embryos for stem cell experimentation.

“It appears to ban human cloning when actually the fine print would put the right to do human cloning in the Missouri Constitution,” Cathy Ruse, a spokeswoman for Missourians Against Human Cloning (MAHC), told Cybercast News Service .

Ruse said the amendment’s definition of cloning, which will not be included in the summary of the amendment on ballots Nov. 7, “gives biotech firms the right to do somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT), which is the scientific term for cloning.”

SCNT is a process which creates an embryo by placing the nucleus of a living body cell into a woman’s enucleated egg. The process was used in the cloning of Dolly the sheep in Scotland in 1996.

The resulting embryo is a genetic clone of the animal or person whose cell was used to create it. Embryos created in this way can be harvested for stem cells and are destroyed in the process.

What the ban will do
The amendment will ban two procedures related to cloning and embryo creation.

First, it bans the creation of an egg by traditional fertilization – sperm meets egg – for the purpose of stem cell research, meaning scientists cannot fertilize an egg with sperm and destroy the embryo to harvest its stem cells.

Second, it bans using SCNT to create embryos that will be implanted in a uterus, brought to term, and be born – “reproductive cloning.”

But it would create a constitutional right for researchers to create embryos using SCNT that will be used for embryonic stem cell research.

The practice is sometimes called “therapeutic cloning” by its supporters, because of the hope that stem cells will someday provide cures for degenerative diseases.

Some pro-lifers favor the term “destructive cloning.”

What is cloning?
Groups on all sides familiar with the wording of the amendment agree on what procedures it will ban and protect. The argument, then, is over the definition of “cloning.”

The Missouri Coalition for Lifesaving Cures (MCLC), a group that supports the amendment, argues that the amendment’s definition is accurate and that in order for a procedure to constitute human cloning, it must produce a duplicate human being.

“Opponents of stem cell research claim that making stem cells in a lab dish is the same thing as ‘human cloning,'” the group states on its website. “Medical experts and most other people disagree with that view and understand that ‘human cloning’ means creating a duplicate human being – not making stem cells in a lab dish.”

Groups like MAHC argue that the procedure itself amounts to cloning, a claim Ruse said is supported by “every major independent science and health organization,” including the National Institutes of Health and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

On its website, the NIH defines somatic cell nuclear transfer as “the scientific term for cloning,” saying it “can be used for therapeutic (medical) or reproductive purposes, but the initial stage that combines the enucleated egg and a somatic cell nucleus is the same.”

The AAAS stated in a 2003 report on human cloning that “we have chosen to use the term cloned embryo to describe the product of nuclear transplantation.”

Advancing embryonic stem cell research
MCLC argues that the amendment is necessary to protect embryonic stem cell research from legal restrictions because early stem cells – as opposed to “adult” stem cells – are “totally unspecialized cells that have the potential to turn into and regenerate any type of cell or tissue in the human body.”

“Thus,” the group adds, “the overwhelming majority of medical experts, medical organizations, disease foundations and patient groups agree that [early stem] cells could provide cures for many diseases and injuries that have not been cured – and probably cannot be cured – with adult stem cells.”

Opponents say embryonic stem cells aren’t as promising as its supporters say and that the amendment is unfair because it tricks voters into thinking they’re voting against human cloning when they’re really voting to protect embryonic stem cell research.

A 2003 Johns Hopkins University survey found that 76 percent of Americans “did not approve of cloning human embryos for research purposes.” Even more, 88 percent did not approve of using cloning to create a human baby.

Ruse said the amendment definition is a change in terminology to avoid calling SCNT cloning.

“A few years ago people who favored cloning for research used terms like ‘therapeutic cloning’ and ‘cloning for research,'” she said, “but even that was not persuasive to the public.

“Now they try to say it’s just not cloning at all,” Ruse said.

Adult stem cells are obtained from sources such as placentas, umbilical cords and nasal passages.

Reprinted here with permission from Cybercast News Service. Visit the website at CNSNews.com.