The following letter was sent by John Miller to the Eastern Daily Press following an article on embryo cloning by David Prior MP. To date it hasn't been printed which rather tends to bear out the point of the letter!
To see some of John's excellent art work see: http://members.tripod.com/~ngin/pants.htm
For much more on the cloning issue see: http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~cahge/cloning.htm
MP David Prior is quite right to ask for readers' opinions (EDP 28th Nov) on embryo cloning because this threshold is in danger of being crossed without any significant public debate taking place. This seems to be the way with genetic technologies whether its introducing GM foods, insurance companies being able to demand genetic test data, or cloning.
Where David Prior is wrong, however, is in his assurance that the proposed "therapeutic cloning" is "a world away" from reproductive cloning. Attaching the nice sounding word "therapeutic" to cloning, shouldn't disguise the fact that a clone is a clone. Once British scientists have developed techniques that will allow them to overcome the key technical hurdle to creating viable human embryos by cloning, it will allow the immediate application of their work for *reproductive* cloning purposes, ie to create a baby.
David Prior says he supports a legal ban on reproductive cloning. But the legality of reproductive cloning here would be irrelevant to entrepreneurs in the USA, for example, who face no legal restrictions whatsoever on cloning.
Bizarre as it may seem, a wealthy cult,'the Raelians', has recently stated its intention of cloning a baby in the USA and is employing biotechnicians to achieve its goal. One can easily imagine which other groups and regimes will be following with interest the work of British scientists if they get the cloning go ahead.
Is it not irresponsible in the extreme to permit British scientists to clone embryos in the absence of an enforceable worldwide ban on reproductive cloning? Rather than giving permission to scientists to clone embryos, MPs should be pressing the government to lead international efforts for a global ban. No wonder the EU has said that the British move is unethical and premature.
Finally, we shouldn't forget that big reductions in the incidence of disease can be achieved by addressing some of the environmental and social causes that account for the vast majority of illnesses. Such an approach is always preferable to a hi-tech medical treatment, particularly one that reduces potential human beings to exploitable biological material.