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Environmental Leaders on Cloned and Genetically Modified Humans

Letter to the US Senate from Environmental Leaders Concerning Cloning and Inheritable Genetic Modification
February 6th, 2002

RE: Human Cloning Legislation Now Pending in Senate
 
Dear Senator:

With human cloning before the U.S. Senate and with the announcement by Advanced Cell Technologies (ACT) that they have taken the first steps toward cloning human embryos, it is critical that you be aware of the position that environmentalists hold on these matters.
 
As environmentalists, we strongly oppose all human reproductive cloning and inheritable gene modification and call on you to pass legislation that would prohibit these practices. We also call for a moratorium on the creation of clonal human embryos for research.
 
Two cornerstone principles of environmentalism inform our positions: respect for nature, and the precautionary principle.

Environmentalists embrace an ethic of respect for nature and affirm the interdependence of humans and our natural world. Reproductive cloning-the creation of genetic duplicates of existing people-radically transforms the fundamental processes of procreation and development. Together with proposed techniques of inheritable gene modification, the use of cloning for reproduction would irrevocably turn human beings into artifacts. It would bring to an end the human species that evolved over the millennia through natural evolution, and set us on a new, uncontrollable trajectory of manipulation, design and control. Proponents of cloning extol the virtues of "improving" what nature has given us - constructing, for example, "designer babies," or cloning pets that don't cause allergies. We believe this will lead us down a slippery slope toward the redesign of all life. We cannot allow this to happen.
 
Our call for a moratorium on the creation of clonal embryos is based on the precautionary principle. It requires that we have some regard for the consequences of our actions before we carry them out. We support research that would help determine the therapeutic potential of human stem cells. However, the creation of clonal embryos as part of such research clearly increases the risks of fully-formed human clones eventually being born. While many scientists and physicians who advocate embryo cloning strenuously disavow the goal of cloning human beings, others do not.
 
Fortunately, needed research on human embryo and adult stem cells can proceed without having to create clonal embryos. During a moratorium, alternatives to the use of clonal embryos can be explored. We view the use of clonal embryos for research as a last resort.
 
It is no secret that the pursuit of cloning technology is being driven to a great extent by profit-driven firms and a very small number of scientists. Most of these undoubtedly sincerely believe they are working for the betterment of humanity, but more than a few are irresponsibly dangling highly unrealistic visions of miracle cures before the American people, in an effort to discourage necessary public sector control and regulation. Environmentalists know first hand that without public sector oversight, the public good will not be represented in any final outcomes.
 
Finally, we call on you to support active United States participation in an international treaty effort to set global standards and policies for governing the most consequential of the new human genetic technologies. Without such policies, it may be difficult for national legislation to prevent "eugenic tourism" where people travel to other countries to get a procedure that is not legal or morally acceptable here.
 
Motivated by our deep regard for the natural world and for human life, we urge you to support:

    * A ban on human reproductive cloning and inheritable genetic modifications, including "designer babies."
    * A moratorium on the creation of clonal human embryos for research, while alternatives are explored and strict government regulation is established to prevent abuses of this technology.
    * An international convention under the auspices of the United Nations to bring the new human genetic technologies within the ambit of responsible global governance.

Sincerely,

Brent Blackwelder
President
Friends of the Earth
 
Mark Dubois
President, WorldWise and
International Coordinator, Earth Day 1990 and 2000*
 
Randy Hayes
President
Rainforest Action Network*
 
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
President
Waterkeeper Alliance*
 
John A. Knox
Executive Director
Earth Island Institute*
 
Robert K. Musil, Ph.D.,M.P.H.
Executive Director and CEO
Physicians for Social Responsibility*
 
John Passacantando
Executive Director
Greenpeace U.S.A*

Michele Perrault
International Vice-President
Sierra Club*
 
Mark Ritchie
President
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
 
* = for identification purposes only


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