Dear Mr. President:
Recently certain groups have announced plans to clone human beings. The Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) opposes these efforts, and we urge you to support continuation of the current voluntary moratorium on these experiments in the United States. BIO represents more than 940 biotechnology companies and academic institutions in all 50 states.
The moratorium on cloning human beings was implemented in March 1997 as an immediate response to concerns raised by the cloning of a sheep, named Dolly, from genetic material of an adult cell. The scientific breakthrough’s implications riveted the world and generated calls in many nations for a ban on applications of cloning technology to create human beings.
To be perfectly clear, we support cloning of specific human cells, genes and other tissues that do not and cannot lead to a cloned human being. These techniques are integral to the production of breakthrough medicines, diagnostics and vaccines to treat heart attacks, various cancers, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, hepatitis and other diseases. This type of cloning could also produce replacement skin, cartilage and bone tissue for burn and accident victims, and result in ways to regenerate retinal and spinal cord tissue. More than a quarter billion people worldwide already have benefited from biotechnology therapies and vaccines.
BIO was among the first to support a moratorium on cloning human beings because we view this specific cloning technology as unsafe and because the prospect of cloning humans raises profound moral, religious and bioethical concerns.
The National Bioethics Advisory Commission (NBAC), following a 1997 study on the implications of human cloning, recommended the moratorium be continued. NBAC further urged a ban on federal funding of any attempt to create a child by cloning and urged compliance with a voluntary moratorium by private and non-federally funded sectors.
In its conclusions, NBAC called cloning human beings unsafe and morally unacceptable. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration affirmed that it had jurisdiction over any human cloning experiments and would not approve them.
Mr. President, today the technology to clone a human being still is not safe and the full range of moral and ethical concerns still has not been addressed.
Cloning humans challenges some of our most fundamental concepts about ourselves as social and spiritual beings. These concepts include what it means to be a parent, a brother, a sister and a family.
While in our daily lives we may know identical twins, we have never experienced identical twins different in age or, indeed, different in generation. As parents, we watch with wonder and awe as our children develop into unique adults. Cloning humans could create different expectations. Children undoubtedly would be evaluated based on the life, health, character and accomplishments of the donor who provides the genetic material to be duplicated. Indeed, these factors may be the very reasons for someone wanting to clone a human being.
The current moratorium on cloning humans should remain until our nation has had time to fully explore the impact of such cloning. Otherwise, we may risk a public backlash against responsible biotechnology research that is making progress daily in developing new treatments and cures for our most devastating and intractable diseases.
I welcome the opportunity to discuss this critical and timely issue with you and your staff.
Carl B. Feldbaum
Biotechnology Industry Organization