PCAST Letter on Cloning
March 7, 1997
President William J. Clinton
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, D.C. 20500
Dear Mr. President:
Your Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology endorses the Administration's prohibition on Federal funding for cloning of human beings and your request that the private sector adopt a self-imposed moratorium on cloning human beings. We appreciate that your actions are narrowly focused and do not impede the important and continuing contributions of biotechnology to agricultural and biomedical science. We also support your request to the National Bioethics Advisory Commission for advice on the legal and ethical implications of extending the animal experiments to human studies. These actions are critical to encourage public trust in the ethical conduct of scientific research.
Cloning is a vital component of the biotechnoloy repertoire. When confirmed through the customary process of independent replication, the cloning of a sheep from a fully differentiated cell will represent an important scientific milestone. Cloning, the biological replication of genes, cells, or entire organisms, is an extremely important tool for biomedical and agricultural research and for the commercial application of this research in our Nation's biotechnology industry. Cloning is not a new technology, but has been used for decades by scientists to produce genes and cell lines for testing theories of gene expression, cell differentiation, or how the immune system recognizes foreign substances.
Cloning whole organisms, or creating identical populations of animals, offers promise for the agriculture industry through more efficient animal husbandry techniques; pharmaceutical research, allowing reduction of the number of animals used to assure drug safety; and cost-effective manufacturing of biologically active products. These are only a few of the myriad examples of foreseeable benefits of cloning technology.
The extent and nature of media coverage indicate, to a certain degree, the incomplete public understanding of the history of cloning and the potential applications of the recent animal studies. Advances in reproduction technology elicit strong reactions based on deeply-held personal beliefs and these feelings must be respected. Seeking advice from the National Bioethics Advisory Commission was an appropriate step toward achieving a thorough and thoughtful airing of the diverse opinions that make our Nation strong. But we would underscore that greater public education and scientific literacy are critical to inform the debate and enhance the quality of any consensus that may emerge from these discussions. We believe the scientific community ought to play a more active role in improving the public's understanding of the complexities surrounding cloning, especially when the public at large is most receptive and eager to learn about recent achievements, as it is today. You could ensure this result by asking the National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine, to take on this responsibility.
Through your actions, you have fostered an atmosphere in which these new scientific developments can be considered in a judicious fashion, allowing the science to go forward in a manner consistent with the public good.
- signed -
John A. Young
President's Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology
cc: Vice President Al Gore