NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Clone, Hype and Spin (I)

December 6, 2001

In an excellent example of an attempt to spin the evidence on cloning, published in the Miami Herald under the headline "Safety Objections to Cloning Appear to Crumble," Los Angles Times writer Aaron Zitner strives mightily -- like a sports writer rationalizing a team's string of losses as "rebuilding" -- to put the most positive (i.e., pro-human cloning) spin on progress reports relating to animal clones. As he details:

  • Two companies that have cloned dozens of cattle report that huge numbers of clones still die in the womb.
  • There are laboratory reports of seemingly random genetic mutations arising from the cloning process -- including animals born with unusual problems, such as lung abnormalities, heart defects and misfiring immune systems.
  • A study in Science by Advanced Cell Technology reports that from the 496 embryos it created, it was able to produce 30 cattle in the past four years, of which six died shortly after birth.
  • However, the 80 percent survival rate is comparable to the 84-to-87-percent survival rate for cattle born through in vitro fertilization, and those that survived appeared to remain healthy at the same rate as noncloned cattle.

This "safety record," says Zitner, "could force opponents of human cloning to rely on the argument that it is immoral or unnatural, rather than unsafe."

However, some scientists said it would take far more detailed genetic studies to determine whether the surviving animals were truly healthy.

Source: Aaron Zitner: "2 Cloning Studies Could Mute Critics' Safety Fears," Los Angeles Times, November 23, 2001; "Safety Objections to Cloning Appear to Crumble," Miami Herald, November 23, 2001.


Browse more articles on Health Issues