Commercial dog cloning is more than just cute puppies
Public interest groups cite concerns about potential human reproductive cloning and involvement of disgraced cloning researcher Woo Suk Hwang
Three public interest and environmental groups are strongly criticizing a just-announced commercial dog cloning service. The Center for Genetics and Society, the International Center for Technology Assessment, and Friends of the Earth express concerns that the endeavor could make human reproductive cloning more likely; that a key figure in the venture is a disgraced cloning scientist; and that pet cloning causes unnecessary animal suffering.
The new dog cloning company was reported today in the New York Times and on Good Morning America, on which CGS's Associate Director Marcy Darnovsky appeared.
"Cloning our pets could bring us closer to cloning human beings," said Jaydee Hanson, Director for Human Genetics Policy at the International Center for Technology Assessment. "Human cloning is nearly universally condemned and is prohibited in more than forty countries. Yet it remains legal in most of the U.S."
"Many people consider pets to be part of our families," added Darnovsky. "If we get used to cute cloned puppies, will some people expect cute cloned babies next?"
One of the principal scientists involved in the new dog-cloning venture is Woo Suk Hwang, a stem cell and cloning researcher who is currently under indictment for fraud, embezzlement, violations of South Korea's bioethics law, and other charges.
Hwang was a celebrated researcher before it emerged that he fabricated data, embezzled millions of dollars in government funds, and improperly obtained eggs from women.
"The cloning field has had more than its share of scandals," said Brent Blackwelder, President of Friends of the Earth. "The Hwang affair has been called the biggest scientific fraud in living memory."
In every mammalian species cloned so far, each successful animal cloning requires hundreds of failures. Of the cloned animals that are born alive, many die shortly or during their first year of life. Those that appear healthy often wind up having serious problems.
"Pet cloning companies will show off adorable puppies and kittens. But they're not going to show us the ones who didn't turn out right," noted Hanson. "Top experts in animal cloning have said that there's never been a normal cloned animal."
The International Center for Technology Assessment (www.icta.org) is a non-partisan, non-profit organization based in Washington DC. The Center assesses how technologies affect society and the environment and encourages progressive and responsible use of all technologies.
The Center for Genetics and Society (www.geneticsandsociety.org) is a public affairs and policy advocacy organization working to encourage responsible uses and effective societal governance of human biotechnologies.
Friends of the Earth (www.foe.org) is an environmental advocacy non-profit organization based in Washington, DC. Friends of the Earth promotes policies that ensure a healthy and just world, which includes careful governance of emerging technologies.