WASHINGTON - A report issued Thursday by President Bush's bioethics advisory council includes a majority recommendation calling for a four-year moratorium on therapeutic cloning.
However, seven people on the 18-member council supported a recommendation that would permit the use of cloned embryos for research with proper oversight. One member of the group abstained.
The President's Council on Bioethics, appointed by Bush last fall to sift through ethical issues surrounding advancing science, issues recommendations to the administration in written form. Members are experts in science, law and ethics.
Following the 10-7 vote in favor of a temporary ban, Carl Feldbaum, president of Washington-based Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), issued a prepared statement saying, "The surprising support of seven members of the president's own bioethics council to allow therapeutic cloning to go forward is welcome news to patients who have diseases for which they have little hope for cures or even therapies. The recognition of these members of the potential medical benefits from therapeutic research further underscores why even a moratorium will hurt medical research."
Feldbaum said a moratorium on all cloning research is equivalent to a ban. "An indiscriminate ban on this research ignores the importance of therapeutic cloning to the search for breakthrough treatments for diseases and conditions such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, spinal cord injury and various cancers."
Bush has never hidden that fact that he opposes therapeutic cloning.
The president has publicly lent support to legislation introduced by Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) and Mary Landrieu (D-La.) that would criminalize all cloning - including therapeutic cloning.
Similar legislation introduced by Rep. Dave Weldon (R-Fla.) passed the House last summer in a 265-162 vote. (See BioWorld Today, Aug. 6, 2001, and Nov. 27, 2001.)
On the other side in the Senate, Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) joined forces behind a bill that would ban the cloning of humans, but permit therapeutic cloning.
In recent weeks both sides in the Senate were reportedly looking for some type of comprise in an effort to push legislation through before the mid-term November elections.
At one point, Brownback was considering supporting a two-year moratorium while the Feinstein camp was deciding whether to add language that would specify what researchers could do in the field of human embryonic cloning.
Neither side reportedly had the 60 votes necessary for approval.
Opponents of research cloning say there are research approaches and therapies available, thus abrogating the need or desire for human embryonic stem cell research. (See BioWorld Today, April 11, 2002, and May 2, 2002.)