Dear Senator Hatch:
I read in the Washington Post that Senators are considering a two-year moratorium on somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT). On behalf of the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), an organization that represents more than 1,000 biotechnology companies, academic institutions, state biotechnology centers and related organizations in all 50 states. I am writing to express opposition to a moratorium on SCNT.
Put simply, a moratorium on SCNT puts potentially lifesaving medical breakthroughs on hold. Proponents of a moratorium know that it is complicated and often difficult to lift a congressional ban. Therefore, proffering a moratorium is simply a tactical means to achieve an outright ban of SCNT.
Furthermore, a moratorium sends the wrong signal to our nation's scientists. It stigmatizes the research, creating a disincentive for American researchers to engage in this work. As a result, product discovery and clinical trials will take place elsewhere. Thus, Americans will not have first access to the newest and potentially best treatments. In addition, our nation will cede its ability to not only lead the world in research, but also to set the ethical and regulatory standards about how this research should be conducted.
As you know, SCNT research is vital because it may harness the potential of stem cells and move information from the lab into the doctor's office as cures and treatments. Many diseases and disabilities are caused by disrepair and damage to cells and tissue. In conjunction with stem cell research, cloning technology could be used to develop products such as replacement cells and tissue.
The nation's top scientists from the National Academies of Science and the National Institutes of Health, as well as numerous Nobel laureates, attest to the scientific value of this research. A February 2002 report from the National Academies concluded that while reproductive cloning is unsafe and should be banned, therapeutic cloning has sufficient potential that it should be allowed to continue.
Congress must not pass a moratorium that would halt the important research needed to treat deadly and debilitating diseases afflicting millions of Americans. Our nation's biomedical researchers and millions of patients greatly appreciate your leadership.
Carl B. Feldbaum
Biotechnology Industry Organization