Since the cloning of Dolly the sheep in 1996, cloning has become something of a buzzword, especially in scientific circles. Formerly a staple of science fiction stories, it entered the public consciousness as it never had before. Not surprisingly it has generated controversy, with many of the objections coming religious organizations. Ethical implications aside however, there are however, advantages and disadvantages to the practice of cloning. Those listed below are just a few of the many pros and cons associated with cloning.
Advantages of Cloning
1/Potential benefits to modern medicine
Even today, the full potential of stem cells has not been fully explored. The issue of stem cells has led to controversy because embryos are generally used and they have to be destroyed for the cells to be used. However, a number of researchers believe that stem cells will eventually change the face of medicine as we know it. Given the fact that the cells can be manipulated to mimic other types of cells, this can provide new ways to treat diseases like cancer and Alzheimer’s.
Cloning also offers hope to persons needing organ transplants. People requiring organ transplants to survive an illness often wait years for a suitable donor. In many cases these patients die waiting, as there are long lists of people requiring organs. Theoretically, cloning could eliminate this by producing more animals that can act as suitable donors. Pig livers have been successfully transplanted to human beings, as an interim measure until a human liver is found. Additionally, cloning of these animals not put a burden on the world’s food supply.
2/Helping infertile couples
Cloning offers couples dealing with fertility the chance to have a child of their own. Many infertile couples can’t be helped by the techniques currently available. In fact, although some states have already banned human cloning because of ethical issues, more couples struggling to have children are starting to consider the possibilities that cloning offer.
3/Reverse the aging process
Cloning is being touted as a future answer to reverse the effects of aging.The antiaging market is a prime target becuase it is alreay a multibillion industry.
4/Protecting Endangered Species
Despite the best efforts of conservationists worldwide, some species are nearing extinction. The successful cloning of Dolly represents the first step in protecting endangered wildlife.
5/ Improving food supply
Cloning could provide a means of cultivating plants that are stronger and more resistant to diseases, while producing more. The same could happen to livestock as well where diseases such as foot and mouth disease could be eradicated.Cloning could therefore effectively solve the world’s food problem and minimize or possible eadicate starvation.
Disadvantages of Cloning
1/The Element of Uncertainty
While the cloning of Dolly was seen as a success story, many embryos were destroyed before the desired result was achieved. The process started with 277 eggs, and Dolly was the single successful outcome. Regardless of success in other areas, the field of cloning still has a long way to go. Infertile couples for example, could go through the same heartache as they would if in vitro fertilization failed.
Cloning creates a copy of the original. A human clone would therefore inherit the genetic traits of its predecessor. This includes genetic abnormalities and diseases. Dolly the sheep for example exhibited signs of what some suggested were premature aging, although this was firmly denied by her ‘developers’.
3/The Potential for Abuse
If human cloning became a reality what checks and balances would be put in place to prevent abuse? Would scientists go overboard with the technology? If a couple has a clone that they are not happy with, what would they do next? These are all questions that must be raised in any discussion on cloning. Some have expressed the view that clones could be grown in a farm-like fashion simply for harvesting organs or stem cells. The potential for devaluing human life cannot be ignored.
Cloning, like so many other issues that have faced modern science, must be carefully evaluated. There will always be detractors, those who feel that anyone involved in cloning is playing God. And this may not be too far from the truth. However, any discussion on cloning must be looked at in the context of its inherent value to mankind.
January 24th, 2009
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