By Kim Coghill
WASHINGTON ¿ The House of Representatives is expected to vote today on legislation that will make it a crime to clone for therapeutic and reproductive purposes.
The legislation (HR2505), authored by Rep. Dave Weldon (R-Fla.), provides a comprehensive ban on all human cloning. Last week, in an 18-to-11 vote, the House Judiciary Committee approved the legislation. Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) has introduced similar legislation (S790) in the Senate.
President Bush, who still hasn¿t decided whether federal dollars should pay for stem cell research, reportedly supports a complete ban on cloning.
But cloning humans is not really the issue since almost everyone agrees that such research should be left to science fiction novels.
The real issue is therapeutic cloning, which many scientists believe is central to the production of breakthrough medicines, diagnostics and vaccines to treat Alzheimer¿s, diabetes, Parkinson¿s, heart attack, various cancers and many other genetic diseases. Therapeutic cloning also could produce replacement skin, cartilage and bone tissue for burn and accident victims and help to regenerate retinal and spinal cord tissue. However, such cloning techniques cannot produce a whole human being.
According to Claude Allen, deputy secretary for the Department of Health and Human Services, the Bush administration believes there are therapies either on the market or in the research phase that could achieve the same results that scientists hope to gain through therapeutic cloning research.
But others, including Reps. James Greenwood (R-Pa.) and Peter Deutsch (R-Fla.), said that therapeutic cloning could hold value. The two have introduced alternative legislation (HR2608) that prohibits reproductive cloning, but allows it for research purposes.
Of the Greenwood-Deutsch legislation, Carl Feldbaum, president of Washington-based Biotechnology Industry Organization, said, ¿This bill is a thoughtful piece of legislation that strikes a careful balance between an unsafe and unethical application of technology ¿ while allowing critical scientific research to continue.¿
He said the bill introduced by Greenwood and Deutsch ¿is not knee-jerk legislation ¿ it is wise and balanced legislation, which has the strong support of the Biotechnology Industry Organization, numerous scientific and medical groups as well as the significant and vital support of many patient organizations.¿