Washington Editor

WASHINGTON - Wednesday, Senators voting on the side of science introduced legislation designed to ban reproductive cloning while allowing cloning for research or therapeutic purposes.

Led by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), a bi-partisan group including senators Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) signed legislation considered friendly by the industry.

In a prepared statement, Michael Werner, vice president for bioethics at the Biotechnology Industry Organization, issued a statement supporting the Feinstein legislation (Human Cloning Ban and Stem Cell Research Protection Act of 2003) saying, "Virtually all Americans agree that experiments using cloning technology for human reproductive purposes are both morally repugnant and dangerous."

Washington-based BIO says there's a vast difference between reproductive cloning and therapeutic research using the same core technology of somatic cell nuclear transplant (SCNT).

"Responsible scientists hope to use SCNT to develop new ways of deriving genetically matched embryonic stem cells that can be used to create cell and tissue transplants to treat diseases and injuries afflicting upwards of 100 million Americans - such as diabetes, neurodegenerative disorders, autoimmune diseases and certain cancers."

Feinstein authored similar legislation last summer that ended up competing with an all-out ban on cloning introduced by Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.). Both bills died in December at the close of the 107th Congress.

Not only did President George Bush support the Brownback legislation, he also supported similar legislation that passed the House in a 265-162 vote in August 2001. The latter, introduced by Rep. Dave Weldon (R-Fla.), also died in December but was reintroduced in early January, and in the Senate, Brownback and Mary Landrieu (D-La.) last week introduced legislation to ban all cloning. (See BioWorld Today, Jan. 9, 2003.)

About an hour before the Feinstein group held a press conference here announcing introduction of the 2003 version of the legislation, a group calling for a comprehensive ban on cloning held a press conference to sign "The Sanctity of Life in a Brave New World: A Manifesto on Biotechnology and Human Dignity," produced by the Council for Biotechnology Policy. The council is a non-profit organization that states its primary goal is to be a resource for those who seek to "know and understand bioethics from a Christian perspective." The group is made up of academics, ethicists and scientists.

According to a statement released by the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal service organization, the manifesto seeks to provide a comprehensive framework that protects the sanctity of life in the new biotechnology era, beginning with a ban on human cloning for any reason.