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Genetic Crossroads
January 12th, 2003

The Raelians' announcement on December 27 that the first human clone had been born sparked a media frenzy. The Kaiser Daily Reproductive Health Report published an inventory of 42 editorials and opinion pieces published between December 28, 2002 and Jan 6, 2003. The compilation can be found at: http://www.kaisernetwork.org/daily_reports/rep_index.cfm?DR_ID=15371

A review by CGS staff Stacy Robison shows that, of the 42 editorials and op-eds, a strong majority (31) support an immediate ban on reproductive cloning. Of these 31,

  • Eighteen oppose reproductive cloning but support cloning for research purposes
  • Eight believe that reproductive cloning should be swiftly banned and research cloning should be addressed separately
  • Three support a total ban on cloning, both research and reproductive
  • Two propose a ban on reproductive cloning and a moratorium on research cloning

In addition:

  • Four pieces mention the need for an international ban on reproductive cloning
  • Two note liberal and progressive caution concerning the eugenic potential of cloning technology.

Of the eleven that do not support an immediate ban on reproductive cloning,

  • Seven suggest that reproductive cloning could one day prove beneficial and should be allowed to continue
  • Four question the public's opposition to reproductive cloning, claiming that the birth of a clone is inevitable and may someday be normalized (a la in vitro fertilization)

To their credit, the authors of the opinion pieces summarized above addressed many of the ethical, legal, social, and regulatory questions raised by the Raelians' announcement. These stood in stark contrast to the news coverage itself, most of which featured stories about UFOs and cult practices accompanied by photo spreads of the prophet Rael flanked by young female followers.

At the same time, the fact that 25% of editorial and op-ed comment appears to be at least equivocal concerning the acceptability of reproductive cloning is disturbing. This figure could reflect the commitment of editors to ensure that all sides of an issue receive equal attention, even if one side has little support. It might reflect random sampling error or bias in the selection of the 42 pieces themselves. Or it could suggest that many newspaper editorial and op-ed staffs hold values about cloning that differ from those held by the majority of people.

Up-to-the minute compilations of news and opinion about human cloning, culled from publications around the world, can be found at Google News and Yahoo Full Coverage:


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