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EDITORS' NOTE

Genetic Crossroads
August 18th, 2001

Human cloning has captured the attention of the country. In
the past

few weeks it has been the subject of a Congressional vote (see
Genetic

Crossroads Bulletin #3, August 2), a conference held by the
most

prestigious scientific body in the US (see below), and intense
media

scrutiny. George Bush talked about cloning in his speech on
stem cell

research, and the ethics board he appointed will deliberate
on it. The

researchers who say they are working to produce a cloned child
grabbed

headlines, as did the announcement by a biotechnology company
that it

intends to clone human embryos in its privately funded laboratory.


Some of the news is encouraging. The House of Representatives
voted

in favor of a tough cloning ban. Pro-choice and progressive
voices

condemning human cloning and inheritable genetic modification
are

beginning to organize and be heard. A few prominent scientists
have

spoken out about the social and political threats posed by cloning,


as well as about its serious health risks. France, Germany and
other

countries are asking the UN General Assembly to consider working


towards a global ban on human cloning. An influential group
of social

conservatives that oppose human cloning is working to untangle
it from

abortion politics. In poll after poll, huge majorities reject
the

production of cloned or genetically "redesigned" children.


Other developments are disturbing. Many scientists and others
say that

they believe cloning will be acceptable once it can be done
safely.

Too few progressives are aware of what's at stake in the push
for human

cloning and inheritable genetic modification. Commercial interest
in

these dangerous technologies is quickly increasing. Confusion
about the

relationship between stem cell research and cloning is widespread.


This issue of Genetic Crossroads addresses many of these topics
and

gives pointers to information about others. But the most important


message is this: We now face, with much heightened urgency,
the job

of building a broad groundswell to stop the technologies of
eugenic

engineering.


At this moment, the two constituencies visible in US debates
about new

human genetic technologies are the biotechnology lobby and opponents
of

abortion rights. Thus media coverage typically pits overblown
promises

of regenerative medicine against the claims of abortion foes
about the

moral status of embryos, and downplays or ignores the enormous
social

and political consequences of human cloning and inheritable
genetic

modification. No wonder, then, that many people are unaware
that the

techniques used in cloning would open the door for inheritable
genetic

modification and the takeoff of a new market-driven eugenics.


Our job is to alert and activate the broad constituencies who
have not

yet fully understood or engaged the dangers of eugenic engineering.
In

the next few weeks we will be launching a web site and planning
a number

of public events. Genetic Crossroads will keep you informed
both about

organizing developments and about events related to the new
human

genetic technologies as they unfold.

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