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Genetic Crossroads
June 21st, 2001

Two bills are the focus of cloning politics in the US right now. One is
the Human Cloning Prohibition Action of 2001 (HR 1644) introduced by Rep.
David Weldon (R-FL). It calls for permanent bans on both the creation of
clonal human embryos and their use to produce a fully formed human clone.

The other, the Cloning Prohibition Act of 2001 (HR 2172), was introduced
by Rep. James Greenwood (R-PA). It provides for a 10-year moratorium on
producing cloned human beings followed by an automatic "sunset." It also
requires that anyone intending to produce cloned human embryos for
research purposes inform the federal government, and promise not to use
them to produce fully formed human clones.

The Greenwood bill is remarkable in two regards. First, no other nation
that bans reproductive cloning--there are more than three dozen of them--
sets a date for the ban to expire. In those countries, a ban is a ban.
Why include a 10-year sunset provision, unless to suggest that creating
human clones might in fact be acceptable after all?

Second, the Greenwood bill represents an end-run around the critical
policy issue of whether producing human embryos by cloning should be
allowed. Its rationale is that the "registration" procedure it sets
up would guard against covert attempts to create cloned human beings.

If techniques to produce clonal embryos were refined, achieving the
birth of human clones would not present any major technical hurdles.
Many people believe that human embryo cloning is a threshold that should
never be crossed, or that it should be allowed only after strict bans
on reproductive cloning have been put in place globally, and after all
alternative research avenues have been exhausted.

The Greenwood bill would in effect facilitate the human cloning agenda.
Its 10-year moratorium would prevent "premature" cloning attempts such
as those announced by the Raelians--attempts likely to result in the
birth of children with the kind of serious or lethal anomalies seen in
many cloned animals. But it would give a green light to the development
of "safe" techniques that would make human clones possible.

The Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) has said that it too
opposes reproductive human cloning. But it would clearly prefer a
Greenwood-type moratorium to a ban, and it strongly supports embryo
cloning. BIO's relationship to Greenwood is suggested by its having
named him its 1998 "Legislator of the Year."

The texts of the Greenwood and Weldon bills are available at
<http://thomas.loc.gov>. Search for "human cloning."


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