Today, the journal Science reported that Dr. Hwang Woo-suk and Dr. Moon Shin-yong of Seoul National University created human embryonic stem cells by cloning a human embryo and then destroying it — inserting a cell nucleus into a human egg cell, a process known as somatic cell nuclear transfer, and then killing the embryo by removing the stem cells — a process illegal in many countries and which the US is seeking to ban worldwide through the United Nations.

There are two basic types of stem cells: embryonic stem cells extracted from human embryos, and those found in mature body tissue or organs such as bone, brain, muscle, and skin. This research team created embryonic stem cells using 242 eggs from 10 volunteer donors.

This is news of huge significance for the human race and those who hold its future dear. Although there have been claims before — Advanced Cell Technology of Massachusetts claimed to have done this in November 2001 (their embryos died so young the scientists dismissed it as a failed experiment), and the Raelians and other fringe groups have unproved claims. But now it looks as if it’s for real. Cloning works on us. And while the Korean scientists have no intention of raising their cloned embryos into born babies, the technology is the same. It can be done.

What they have done is at least as bad, if in another way. They have manufactured these tiny humans for one sole purpose: experimentation and destruction. They have pioneered the mass-production of humans for death. They have the Brave New World firmly in their sights.

We need also to make some vital connections. New Jersey just a few short weeks ago passed what I called the worst bioethics bill in the world. Not only does it encourage experiments and human manufacture of this kind, it make a point of declaring illegal only the birth of cloned babies, leaving wide open their implantation and gestation as another avenue for “science.” Since some of the most promising animal experiments have depended on doing just that – implanting the embryo (in a mouse, in the latest research) and then harvesting body parts from the fetus – this is plainly no accident. Human manufacture, and butchery, will not end in the petri dish but in the womb.

The Biotechnology Industry Organization backed this terrible New Jersey bill, just as they opposed Dr. Dave Weldon’s recent appropriations that has successfully ensured that, for the next year at least, no patents may be issued in the US on human embryos, cloned or otherwise.

There has never been a better time for responsible voices in the biotech community – from venture capitalists to CEOs – to abandon BIO and seek new, responsible leadership for their exciting business that will say no to these deeply unethical procedures. We need to note that it is not simply conservative, pro-life Republicans who want this stopped! France is on the verge of passing a bill that would send these Korean professors to prison. Germany passed one in 1990! Mexico and Norway and Australia have done the same. And we have worked closely with environmentalists and also feminists, many of whom are as much opposed to cloning human embryos for experiments as we are.

The human race need to start the “biotech century” by saying loud and clear that there are some things we shall never do to our own kind. This is top of the list.

Nigel M. de S. Cameron
Chairman, The CBC

Dr. Cameron serves as Director of the Council for Biotechnology Policy in Washington, DC, and in 2002 represented the United States as bioethics adviser to the US delegation to the Ad Hoc Committee on human cloning, but he writes in his personal capacity.