Clinton bars federal research on human cloning

WASHINGTON (AP) — Declaring the creation of life “a miracle that reaches beyond laboratory science,” President Clinton on Tuesday barred spending federal money on human cloning. He also urged a halt in private research until the ethical impact is better understood.
Clinton, warning against “trying to play God,” directed all federal agencies not to allocate money for cloning of human beings — although he acknowledged Tuesday that the government is not now funding such research.
“I just wanted to make sure that we keep it that way,” Clinton said during an Oval Office appearance before he departed for Arkansas to inspect tornado damage.
Citing the cloning of an adult sheep in Scotland, Clinton asked the National Bioethics Advisory Commission last week to review the ramifications cloning would have for humans and report back to him in 90 days.
But Clinton said he decided to restrict use of federal funds after learning that researchers in Oregon had cloned two rhesus monkeys from embryos — the world’s first cloned primates and the closest step yet to humans.
“Human cloning would have to raise deep concerns, given our most cherished concepts of faith and humanity,” Clinton said. “Each human life is unique, born of a miracle that reaches beyond laboratory science. I believe we must respect this profound gift and resist the temptation to replicate ourselves.”
Current law prohibits spending federal money on human embryo experiments, but the prohibition expires Sept. 30. Sen. Christopher Bond, R-Mo., has urged Congress to make that ban permanent.
Those restrictions, however, did not explicitly address cloned embryos, nor did it apply to all federal agencies, so Clinton moved to close that loophole.
“Science often moves faster than our ability to understand its implications,” Clinton said. “Any discovery that touches upon human creation is not simply a matter of scientific inquiry. It is a matter of morality and spirituality as well.”
Clinton also asked private researchers — who are not covered by his directive — to voluntarily hold off at least until the National Bioethics Advisory Commission can study the matter, a move with which biological and medical researchers agreed.
“It’s a wise idea to call a time out. This has happened a bit sooner than people expected,” said Carl Feldbaum, president of the Biotechnology Industry Organization, a group representing those involved in health care, agricultural and environmental research.
However, they also warned the president that making his ban permanent could thwart vital research on how genes are turned on and off inside human cells, a key factor in finding a cure for cancer or some birth defects.
“We mustn’t shut down other related forms of research that could unlock the secrets to diseases,” said Ronald M. Green, director of the Ethics Institute at Dartmouth College and a member of a 1994 panel on human embryo research at the National Institutes of Health.
Clinton, too, noted the difference cloning could make in agriculture, medical treatments or “helping to unlock the greatest secrets of the genetic code.” But, he said, he did not want scientific progress to move so fast that new developments are not handled responsibly.