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America's Culture War: In the News

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In the News: A Patent for Human Reproductive Cloning

by  Brad Harrub, Ph.D.

April 3, 2001 came and went as just any ordinary day. This was before September 11 and the war on terrorism, so news headlines focused primarily on our prospering economy. It was not until May 16, 2002 that the Patent Watch Project discovered that on April 3, 2001 a patent had been awarded to the University of Missouri for human reproductive cloning. The patent, U.S. 6,211,429, gives the University, and Biotransplant, Inc. (a Massachusetts-based biotech company) the rights to any “products”—whether human or animal—created by the process of cloning. John F. Kilner, president of the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity, said concerning the discovery: “The possible patenting of human beings, no matter their age, size, or stage of existence, would be a crushing blow to essential human rights and dignity. What is slavery other than one person owning another? By giving a company ownership of human beings produced through a cloning process, this patent apparently gives government approval to a new form of slavery.”

While much of the fault lies with the patent-holding researchers themselves—they quite easily could have included the word “nonhuman” before the word “mammal” in their patent application—they are not the only ones responsible for this atrocity. Money and greed play a major role as biotech companies position themselves to profit from cloning—now, and in the distant future.

Similar patent applications also are pending. For example, a group of researchers from Massachusetts has applied for a patent that allows them “to use tissues derived from NT [i.e., “nuclear transfer” (cloned)] embryos, fetuses or offspring, including human and ungulate tissues,” and to own the patent rights to the “progeny of the [cloned] offspring.” Simply put, they want to create human clones, harvest their organs, and own the rights to their children. They want to be able to use some human beings as raw materials to help others.

At the press conference where U.S. senators Specter, Kennedy, Feinstein, and Hatch first announced the release of their “pro-research cloning legislation,” Arlen Specter was asked when a cloned embryo could no longer be used morally for research. He replied: “I have not found it helpful to get into the details.” Christians, however, must “get into” the details! Human lives are at stake. And if it is this bad now, what do you imagine it will be like in the future?

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