Life and Bio meeting statement on cloning
1. We are a group of ordinary citizens that meet regularly to discuss issues related to biotechnology and life. The group consists of people from various positions and we cover a wide range of occupations and experience, but we aim to discuss and learn about the environmental, ethical and social issues associated with the use of biotechnology based on our personal experience, scientific knowledge and practical reality. We have discussed cloning in this way over 4 meetings and would like to present this statement as a group consensus. This is a summary of our positions on the following topics raised by the availability of cloning technology.
2. The biological definition of a clone that already exists in nature could be as the following; groups of cells or organisms that are derived asexually from an organism; a tissue or a cell that carries identical genetic information. This activity is commonly seen in organisms such as bacteria and other unicellular species. Identical twins or triplets are clones of each other, which is an example we can see in our life already.
3. Humans have used cloning in plants over a long time period. Taking cuttings of trees has been commonly used for plant breeding, and some vegetables are commonly cloned.
This process needs human hand, but it is very similar to cloning seen in nature.
4. Two recent techniques have made it possible to make clones of animals. One is embryo splitting, which involves the separation of cells from the same embryo to generate individual embryos, which can be accomplished only in the first 4-8 cells in mammals. The other is somatic cell nuclear transfer into an enucleated egg, which then grows as an embryo. Both these procedures require engineering that can not be seen in nature.
5. The development of human embryonic stem (ES) cell lines, derived from a somatic cell, that are capable of embryonic development, creates new opportunities for cloning and genetic engineering. The nucleus of a genetically modified ES cell can be implanted into an enucleated fertilized egg. This also requires engineering done by human hand.
B: Regulations of cloning
6. Following the birth of Dolly, the first mammal to be cloned by adult somatic cell nuclear transfer, in 1997, there were a number of international statements against human reproductive cloning. Article 11 of the Universal Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights reads "Practices which are contrary to human dignity, such as reproductive cloning of human beings, shall not be permitted." This was approved by all member countries of UNESCO in 1997 and all United Nations member countries in 1998. The Council of Europe Convention on Biomedicine and Human Rights outlaws reproductive cloning of human beings. The HUGO Ethics Committee "Statement on cloning", is against use of somatic cell nuclear transfer into enucleated cells.
7. Some countries have prohibited human reproductive cloning, including New Zealand, and Israel. In Japan the Subcommittee on Cloning of the Committee on Bioethics of the Science Council of the Science and Technology Agency recommended a law be made to ban human reproductive cloning in November 1999. A bill was presented to the Diet in Japan, on 13 April 2000, but it was later blocked by some members of Parliament who thought more issues raised by assisted reprodutive technology should be included. The main goal of this bill was to prohibit human reproductive cloning by banning experiments that plan to implant cloned embryos, hybrid embryos and chimera embryos. It would have a five year period of duration, like the law in Israel.
C: Cloning of plants
8. As mentioned above, vegetative propagation of plants has been used over a long time period and there are no objections to it. Commonly this includes cutting of trees and shrubs, splitting of bulbous plants, such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, asparagus, rice, strawberries and melons for food. Expensive flowers such as lilies, tulips, chrysanthemums and orchids are also commonly cloned in Japan. We accept the cloning of these plants.
D: Cloning of Non-human Animals
9. We will deal with specific uses of animal cloning as below, noting that it should be subject to the same principles concerning animal welfare as other experimentation on animals or livestock husbandry. Its purpose should be clearly defined and procedures should be subject to ethical review.
10. One purpose is to alter the inherent property of the animal to obtain better meat, wool or growth rate, for example. This has been performed in Japan in the pursuit of "marbled beef". By using cloning technology, the expected offspring will have the same genetic information to the clone donor. Before being widely used we should be sure the properties of the animal are stable, and the animal is not suffering. One objection to use of cloning or genetic engineering for mass livestock production may be the decrease in genetic variety. We note that over the twentieth century biodiversity of plants and animals used in food production has decreased. It is not hard to imagine artificial elimination of many genetic traits that may appear unappealing to human eyes.
11. Another reason to clone an animal is to create an animal bioreactor, to produce valuable substances through the use of genetic engineering. Cloning only makes a genetic copy of the cell with the engineered genetic sequence. One example are sheep that produce milk that contains medically useful proteins.
12. Creation of cloned pigs as organ donors has also been reported. It relies on genetic engineering to make "humanized organs" fit for transplantation. Making organs for human transplantation in animals was the topic most discussed in the group. The concern here is whether it is ethical to make organs in animals, because it means they have to be killed when needed as an organ donor. Pigs are considered by many as the best animals, because their body size, internal gut system, and biochemistry are similar to humans and also from its long history of being raised for meat. People felt it was socially hard to accept the killing of organisms close to humans, such as the great apes.
13. Another reason for cloning is in conservation of biodiversity. It can be used to help increase the numbers of members of endangered species. The potential availability of cloning as an emergency procedure to save the last few members of a species, lack the consideration of individual genetic variation thus should not lessen the drive to protect the habitats where endangered species live.
E: Cloning of Humans
14. Reproductive cloning of human beings is against Article 11 of the Universal Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights that Japan has endorsed. If the cloning of human beings becomes technically safe, to use cloning as an assisted reproductive technology could be the solution for some infertile couples who do not wish to use donated sperm but want to have a genetically related child. On this issue we did not have consensus whether it would be ethical.
15. As mentioned above, making organs for transplantation could be possible in vitro in the near future. This idea might be a big step forward to people who suffer severe diseases, and already skin grafts have been reported possible. The issue should be subject to informed consent of the person receiving the transplant, and the consent of the donor in the case it is different to the recipient.
16. There are ethical issues raised by the collection of cells and materials that may be used for ES cell research, and tissue generation. These should follow international standards, and be clear on the use of the tissue, intellectual property rights, and disposal of excess, before collecting the samples.
17. If technology advances, it will be possible to obtain a clone of the individual at the time of their birth (a spare copy of a whole body). We consider this to be unethical to treat a person in this way as it violates the dignity of life.
F: Implications for Respect of Life
18.We think society needs to discuss questions like "How and from where do we call one person a _ghuman_h?", "Is it still the same person even if the whole body has been exchanged to a healthy new copy?" Genetically it would be the same person since it is a clone of the original person. Though there are some minor genetic changes that alter the expression of genes between different individuals as well as the difference in the cytoplasmic genome sequence, even though the nuclear genome sequence is the same.
19. There are fundamental ethical principles involved in human activity, which touches and helps create human life. These principles include autonomy, justice, do no harm and beneficence. Human dignity is a difficult concept, but includes intrinsic value that every person has, and extrinsic value society places on others. Human diversity is valued, as part of this dignity. Cloning if used for "pre-destination" of a child into a tight mould is against human dignity.
G. Openness and scientific responsibility
20. We emphasize the need for an open and transparent process of the development of science. This responsibility is shared by scientists doing the research at all levels, and those who develop and nurture the organisms grown.
21. While there should be more education of the issues in schools, we cannot leave spreading of information to formal education. People discuss these topics among their family, circle of friends and colleagues, and in society, and all citizens have responsibility.
22. Society has a responsibility to develop new medicines for the sick, and to make agriculture more environmentally friendly and involve less suffering to animals, but this process should not be against ethical principles.
Enquiries to:Darryl Macer, Eubios Ethics Institute, Japan Email: email@example.com
See also the Statement on GMO Labeling Policy in Japan / (Japanese)
On Eubios Ethics Institute