Human cloning is possible but unlawful in most countries. We discuss the pros and cons of genetic engineering and cloning, and whether it should be legal.
What is human cloning?
Human cloning refers to the creation of replicas or identical copies of human through genetic engineering techniques. Human cloning was a popular theme in science fiction literature but technological progress has already made possible the cloning of several species. Scientists have already managed to successfully clone plants and animals and in theory using similar technologies they could also create copies of humans. There are two processes through which humans could be in theory cloned:
- Somatic cell nuclear transfer: This technique consists of removing the genetic material from a host egg cell, and then implanting the nucleus of a somatic cell (from a donor) into this egg. The somatic cell genetic material is fused using electricity. This was the technique employed to clone the famous Dolly sheep in 1996.
- Induced pluripotent stem cells: This approach relies on adult cells that have been genetically reprogrammed. A specific set of genes, usually referred to as “reprogramming factors”, are introduced into a specific adult cell type. These factors send signals in the adult cell transforming it into a pluripotent stem cell. This technique is still in development and entails some problems but it has already been employed with mice.
The impact that human cloning could have on our societies and future populations have made this topic extremely controversial. Although there are many pros in terms of innovation, reproduction and health, there are also several drawbacks from the ethical and legal perspective. Many countries such as the Australia, Canada, and the United Nations have already passed laws to ban human cloning. However, the issues is far from being settled. Many voices are arguing in favor of human cloning and others are stauch opponents to the legalization of this practice.
Pros of human cloning
Many science fiction movies, such as Gattaca, The Island or Moon have dealt with the implications of genetic engineering and human cloning. Most of them have portrayed a somewhat dystopian future and emphasize the problems of genetic manipulation. However, it is also important to stress the potential benefits of human cloning. Here is a list of its pros:
- Reproduction of infertile couples: using human cloning techniques parents could have babies without needing a donnor or a surrogate.
- Defective genes could be eliminated.
- Genetic modification: parents could decide on some characteristics of their children before they are born, such as the sex, and avoid some congenital disease.
- Prevent some genetic disorders and syndromes: some families have a propensity to certain genetic disorders, some of which could be prevented by genetic selection.
- Cure some diseases and disorders: therapeutic human cloning may allow cloning organs and tissues and replacing damaged ones. This would contribute to increase lifespams and quality of life in the world.
Cons of human cloning
On the other hand we cannot omit the dangers that human cloning may bring to our societies. This is a list of some of the most commonly argued cons:
- Create divides within society: genetically selected people could be, in theory, more intelligent and physically attractive than other people. This could gradually evolve into a caste system.
- Diversity could be lost if parents would choose similar patterns in selecting the genetic material for their children.
- Faster aging and in-built genetic defects: until cloning technology is fully polished, human cloning may create many problems. Since older cells are often used to create clones this could produce premature aging for people. Moreover animal clones have usually been unhealthy.
- Interference with nature and religion: many people find human cloning to be artificial and to be at odds with their beliefs. Human clones could, thus, be stigmatized.
- Unlawful use of clones: as in some science fiction movies and books, clones could be created just as for the purpose of economic gain. Certain types of humans could be created to work on certain jobs, even under abusive conditions. Clones could be also brought up for unlawful activities.
Do you think the pros of human cloning outweigh its cons? Should we allow scientists to clone humans (or parts of humans) for therapeutic and or reproductive reasons?