This past year has been both encouraging and sobering
for those working for responsible societal governance of the
new human genetic technologies. More countries, including Australia
and Norway, have prohibited human cloning. Canada and other
countries are considering legislation to establish comprehensive
oversight of new human genetic and reproductive technologies.
And the United Nations has taken the first steps towards an
historic international convention banning unacceptable applications
of human cloning technology.
At the same time the development of technologies
that pave the way for new forms of genetic discrimination and
high-tech eugenics continues. Advocacy of a new commercial eugenics
and of eugenic ideologies continues to grow. And important efforts
to craft responsible social policy have been delayed, due largely
to the refusal of the two constituencies most heavily politically
engaged - religious conservatives and the biotech/biomedical
industry - to consider reasonable middle-ground positions that
could break the stalemate.
Of special concern are repeated claims by rogue
scientists like Severino Antinori that the births of cloned
children are imminent. There is no way to tell if these claims
are bogus or true. But if a cloned child is in fact born sometime
soon, world leaders and world civil society will need to respond
in a way that ensures that laws prohibiting further human cloning
are enacted in short order.