The Ethical, Social & Legal Issues of Cloning Animals & Humans

Cloning suggests the possibility of growing or cultivating human beings in the future.
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Cloning has been around since 1952 when Robert Briggs and Thomas King externally fertilized and developed a leopard frog using somatic cell nuclear transfer. Though scientists had discussed the need for communication about the ethical ramifications of cloning since as early as 1972, it was not until the successful cloning of a sheep named Dolly in 1997 that cloning came to the forefront of scientific and societal discussion. As a result of the continuity of fast-paced scientific discovery, the issues surrounding cloning of both animals and humans remain a hot topic, with people divided on both sides of the controversy.

1 Arguments for Cloning

From the production of vaccines to organ regrowth for transplantation, cloning from stem cells can improve people's health. In regards to the cloning of whole organisms, however, the benefits are largely found in increasing nutrition derived from food. In the United States, you frequently see whole organism cloning in the genetically modified foods you eat, which are FDA approved and not limited to plants but also to animals such as cloned pigs modified to be a source of omega-3 fatty acids that usually come from fish and certain seeds. Additionally, the replacement of dead or dying household pets and children with genetic disorders, termed ''reproductive cloning,'' has become a social argument in favor of cloning. In fact, in 2004 a company devoted solely to the cloning of household pets opened, and though it closed after only a short, two-year stint, some people continue to see this as a valuable route for cloning research.

2 Ethical Concerns

From a religious standpoint, many argue that the act of cloning makes humans God, an equality not viewed as appropriate as humans lack omniscience. Morally, the arguments are more broad. The ethics of animal research come into play, where many, such as the moral philosopher Peter Singer, believe that all animals are created equal, suggesting animal testing in science should be completely eliminated. The possibilities of unforeseen health risks in cloned organisms and potential negative effects of decreased genetic variation on the human gene pool are seen as ethical causes for concern in addition to the mixed ethical and social consideration of increasing population sizes when worldwide resource availability is a problem.

3 Social Issues

The social issues of cloning tend to focus on human clones in terms of both availability of cloning technology and integration of clones into society. Reproductive cloning raises the question of cost and who should have access. However, the biggest social argument is that cloning negates a person's right to individuality and ignores the potential psychological effects of such a parentless and de-individualized identity.

4 Legal Questions

Legally, funding has always been a concern for cloning research. Many believe the government and taxpayer money should not support research not agreed upon by a clear majority, and in this respect, the U.S. Congress has continued to prohibit use of taxpayer dollars for any research that may result in the death of human embryos. However, reproductive animal cloning continues not just in the U.S., but around the world. The biggest legal issues concerning animal clones are who should be responsible for and at what depth there should be oversight and accountability, as well as the legal right to patent live organisms.

Tiffany Andras received her bachelor's and master's degrees from Georgia Tech in Biology and Biochemistry. Her work was first published in the "Journal of Chemical Ecology" as both a full-length article and the journal's cover. She has been writing professionally since 2012, with articles spanning topics from French culture to nutrition and brain disorders.