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May 15, 2002
1. Revealed: the 582,000 animals
that are genetically modified in
2. 'Human' definition worries cloning
3. No consensus on cloning regulation
4. Single gene failure "explains
Revealed: the 582,000 animals that are genetically modified in Britain's
Scientists condemn shock report by genetics watchdog as 'irresponsible'
Wednesday May 15, 2002
British scientists are genetically modifying and cloning hundreds of
thousands of animals a year with little health or commercial advantage,
according to a report by genetics monitoring group GeneWatch.
The great majority of the 582,000 animals genetically altered in Britain
2000 for medical or agricultural research were mice, but increasingly
goats, cattle, pigs, rabbits, birds, poultry and cats are being used.
The scale of the genetic experimentation on animals was previously
and shocked the RSPCA and other animal welfare groups.
But the report, which drew on peer-reviewed scientific studies and
applications made by companies, was condemned by leading scientists
The report, which covers the development of GM animal technologies
worldwide, says that many experiments are highly inefficient, wasteful
animal lives and frequently involve suffering. "Abortion, premature
and infertility are regular side-effects of these genetic technologies,"
"The extent of animal suffering and the reasons for it are being hidden
public scrutiny and debate", says Dr Sue Mayer, one of the report's
who also sits on the government's agriculture and biotechnology committee
which oversees biotechnology development.
Of more than 10,000 attempts at animal cloning worldwide so far, says
report, there have been only 124 live births and just 65 animals have
reached maturity. Many of these showed serious physical defects. In
peer-reviewed study of 40 cloned calves, 34 showed prenatal abnormalities,
several had limb deformities, and most were described as very slow
In another study of 80 GM lambs transferred to surrogate mothers, all
three died inside 12 weeks with abnormal kidneys, brains or livers.
GM experiments and the cloning of animals have increased by 800% in
10 years and now include attempts in the US to clone pets and endangered
animals. The majority of experiments, however, are aimed at developing
pharmaceutical proteins from transgenic animals to counter multiple
sclerosis, infant diseases, hepatitis, and blood and growth disorders.
So far, says the report, at least 29 human therapeutic proteins have
produced in transgenic animals, most in milk, but some in blood, urine
sperm. While the companies argue that this could make drug production
diseases such as diabetes cheap and readily available, GeneWatch questions
whether it is necessary to perform experiments on so many animals.
"The use of GM animals in medical research must undergo a complete
the science does not support the vast abuse of animals that is taking
place," says the report.
"These experiments should only be undertaken when there is no reasonable
alternative. Balancing the needs of people for drugs with the welfare
integrity of animal species is a complex ethical dilemma."
Other animals, especially pigs, are being genetically modified to try
produce whole organs for humans in xenotransplantation experiments.
of the huge gap between the numbers of organs needed and those available,
this branch of genetic manipulation has attracted millions of pounds
investment, but has had little commercial or scientific success so
Eight companies, including two in Britain, are working on GM pigs to
livers, kidneys, hearts and pancreas.
Yesterday the Roslin Institute, which developed Dolly the sheep, the
first cloned animal, was highly critical of sections of the report.
experiments on animals need to be justified on a case by case basis.
animals will be increasingly important to advancing medical knowledge,
testing of new drugs and to the production of treatments for cancer
other diseases at a price society can afford," said Dr Harry Griffin,
assistant director of the institute.
"For GeneWatch to condemn a whole technology based on a few selected
examples is irresponsible and a gross disservice to the patients who
benefit directly or indirectly in the future."
But he said that he agreed with GeneWatch when it criticised the development
of cloned pets or endangered species. "That is a nonsense, and not
sensible way forward for the technology."
Dr Griffin also questioned the other major strand of GM animal research,
which is trying to develop increased food production. "It is very premature
to introduce cloning into agriculture and we need to look at improved
success rates," he said.
GeneWatch also says that governments and academic laboratories are
developing GM animals with increased agricultural productivity or disease
resistance. Genes coding for human growth hormones and vital proteins
been inserted into a variety of animals.
The report says: "They have displayed enhanced growth, an increased
ration and increased efficiency of feed conversion but there have been
costs to the animals, including gastric ulcers, liver and kidney damage,
degenerative joint diseases, lameness, lethargy and damaged vision."
Two types of sheep are now being developed for increased wool production
peer-reviewed scientific papers suggested that the small increases
production in year one were not repeated later.
But other scientists reacted strongly. Dr Mark Matfield, director of
Research Defence Society, which represents UK scientists in the debate
use of animals in medical research, said: "GM animals are proving crucial
the understanding of many serious and fatal diseases from cancer to
fibrosis and motor neurone disease. Scientists take their responsibilities
towards all laboratory animals, including those that are genetically
modified, very seriously."
GeneWatch called for an independent inquiry into the use of GM and
animals in medical research, an end to secrecy surrounding such experiments
and tighter regulations to prevent their use in agriculture, as pets,
drug production or as organ donors.
"Scientists are getting carried away with gene hype and animals are
suffering. There is simply no justification for the genetic modification
cloning of animals for use in agriculture, as drug factories or for
production," said Dr Mayer.
'Human' definition worries cloning foes
By Amy Fagan
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
The National Right to Life Committee is campaigning
Democrat-backed bill in the Senate that they say would leave the door
to human cloning.
The bill, introduced by Sen. Byron L. Dorgan,
North Dakota Democrat,
would ban the cloning of human beings so-called "reproductive cloning"
but remains silent on the issue of therapeutic cloning, which is dividing
The measure has been billed as a common-ground
approach as the Senate
prepares to vote on cloning, with action expected by the end of the
"We see it as a way to act upon what everyone
agrees needs to be acted
upon," said Mr. Dorgan's spokesman Barry Piatt. "Everyone believes
human being should be illegal. So let's close that door right now and
let's come to a sensible agreement on the other issues."
Mr. Piatt said the bill's purpose is to prevent
procedure from being used to produce the first cloned infant.
But Douglas Johnson, legislative director
for the NRLC, said the bill
leaves the term "human being" open to interpretation. Because some
consider a fetus to be a human being, he said, that language could
cloned human embryo to be implanted in a uterus and grown into a fetus
The Dorgan bill reads, "It shall be unlawful
for any person to engage
in a human cloning procedure for the purpose of creating a cloned human
"So you've got a bill that has this additional
basically anything is OK unless it's done to produce a human being,"
"If a 'fetus' is not a 'human being,' then
the bill would allow a
cloned embryo to be implanted in a human or animal womb and grown for
before being killed to obtain tissues or organs," the NRLC said in
release about the Dorgan bill.
Mr. Dorgan call the NRLC's claim "absurd."
"To say that [the bill] positively permits
something to happen is
inaccurate," Mr. Piatt said. "This bill does not address the rest of
issues, it addresses what we can agree on: that cloning a human being
However, the International Center for Technology
nonpartisan, nonprofit group that analyzes emerging technologies, agrees
with the NRLC assessment of the Dorgan bill. An ICTA analysis says
Dorgan bill is "far from the Senate's 'common ground' and is the most
permissive piece of human cloning legislation introduced in the Senate."
The ICTA analysis found that unlike the
other human cloning bills in
the Senate the Dorgan bill would legalize the implantation of a cloned
human embryo into a woman's uterus.
But Michael J. Werner, vice president of Bioethics
at the Biotechnology
Industry Organization (BIO), said this is unlikely to happen. "I don't
anyone is going to implant a blastocyst into a uterus for research
I don't know if that would be legal first of all, and I don't know
do it," he said.
Two better-known cloning bills have been proposed
in the Senate. One
introduced by Sen. Sam Brownback, Kansas Republican, and favored by
President Bush would ban the cloning of human embryos for any purpose.
other sponsored by Sens. Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania Republican,
Feinstein, California Democrat, and others is favored by BIO. It
the implantation of a cloned human embryo into a uterus but would allow
human cloning procedure to be used to harvest stem cells for research.
Mr. Dorgan's bill is co-sponsored by just
two other Democrats Sens.
Tim Johnson of South Dakota and Mark Dayton of Minnesota but the
there is an "active attempt to market this as a consensus measure."
No consensus on cloning regulation among experts
Copyright ) 2002
United Press International
By JENNIFER LORD, United Press International
WASHINGTON (May 14, 2002 9:50 p.m. EDT) - It is a good thing that in
future, parents will be able to predetermine the physical traits of
children - providing that current anti-cloning legislation before Congress
does not pass - Reason magazine science correspondent Ronald Bailey
recently at the New America Foundation.
Speaking at a packed brown-bag luncheon on May 9, Bailey discussed
genetic testing technology that allows parents to prevent passing on
diseases to their children and said that in the future, reproductive
will go even farther by allowing parents to bear children with pre-chosen
chromosomes, which will allow them to determine their offspring's looks,
intelligence and other traits. All these applications of human genetic
science are to the good, he said.
"Respecting the sanctity of human life does not require that we accept
the horrors that nature chooses to dish out," said Bailey, who has
many articles in favor of genetic engineering and is a strong supporter
Congress granting complete freedom to research scientists to explore
possibilities in the field. His most recent article appears in Reason
magazine, which is published by the libertarian Reason Foundation.
Many of his colleagues in the think tank world disagree with him, however.
For a variety of reasons, other analysts at both conservative and
liberal-leaning think tanks call for either total or partial regulation
human cloning and of other human genetic research that may lead to
experimental medical treatments.
Eric Cohen, a resident scholar at the Ethics and Public Policy Center,
that bioengineering experiments can't be done in a way that is consistent
with the ethics of human experimentation, so they should be banned.
"Human beings are not animals - there's something fundamentally different
about human beings, and we ought not to be treated as animals who are
to specifications," said Cohen.
He said that the "tragic results" of animal cloning - cloned animals
to develop health problems (Dolly the sheep, the first surviving clone,
severe arthritis), and cloned animals frequently die at birth or soon
afterward, and seem to have very short life spans generally - should
strong indicator that the science is not ready to be tried on humans.
At the meeting, Bailey spoke out against the bipartisan Brownback-Landrieu
Human Cloning Prohibition Act, a bill that banned all human cloning.
repro-genetic technologies do not violate the rights of the unborn
opponents of cloning attempt to frighten lawmakers with unverified
predictions of future genetic mutations.
Bailey also said that the future should not be viewed with fear, but
with great expectation, because reproductive cloning would prevent
negative attributes of natural human genetics, such as inherited diseases,
Daniel Callahan, director of International Programs at the New York-based
Hastings Center disagrees. Picking out your child's personality traits
bad and hazardous business, Callahan said.
"We have no idea how it is going to turn out, and it's very hard to
that in most cases it will be beneficial for the child," Callahan said.
"Show me that those (genetically engineered) children will actually
better off than they would if we had left them untouched."
Callahan maintains that the government should step in now and begin
regulating the industry.
"Someone like Ronald Bailey seems to think that anything science wants
is almost de facto a good thing, and are opposed to any form of
interference, but I think that is a naive view of science. Science
good things and it can do bad things, and one of our human tasks is
some distinctions and say that there are certain things that science
not to do," Callahan said.
Ruy Teixeira, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation, a leftward-leaning
think tank, agreed that Congress should pass measures to regulate the
industry but not to ban it completely.
"Right now we are just at the point where we are going to need to develop
some sort of regulatory regime for it. I think that's what the public
wants, and I think that's what the reality of the technology demands,"
Steve Buckstein, president of the Cascade Policy Institute, an Oregon-based,
free-market think tank, is completely against any regulation of the
"I don't think that 100 senators and 400-some Congress people should
making the rules about this," said Buckstein. "I think that science
helped more than it's hurt the human race, and genetic engineering
cloning and all of these new technologies have far more potential for
than for harm. Obviously there are risks involved, and it's good to
those, but to stop progress because of this would be unfortunate."
Other free-marketers also supported further developments in human
biotechnology, but thought the issue should be decided by future
Patrick Stephens, a research fellow at the Objectivist Center, a
philosophical think tank that endorses author Ayn Rand's principals
individualism, said bioengineering humans would not happen in the near
"The science is not there yet and probably won't be for decades and
at least. I think that on the whole, genetic engineering will be a
positive thing for mankind," Stephens said. "The ability to select
diseases like Alzheimer's, autism, Parkinson's and various other genetic
defects has the potential to be an enormous medical device. Most of
medicine is curative, whereas this would be preventative."
Bailey was similarly optimistic about the future. He said government
regulation was the main obstacle to future innovation.
Lack of government regulation in the past, Bailey said, was the main
why the field of genetic science is so successful today.
"If we had regulation of fertility treatments by the Food and Drug
Administration, we would still be waiting for the first test-tube baby,"
Bailey said. "Fortunately, our descendants will have at their disposal
more technologies. And the benefit of our own bad experiences now to
them in their future reproductive decisions. They will in no way be
prisoners of our decisions now."
Single gene failure "explains cloning deaths
22:00 14 May 02
NewScientist.com news service
The catastrophic failure of a single gene's regulation seems to explain
early death of most cloned embryos, of most cloned embryos, suggests
study in mice.
Hans Schvler of the University of Pennsylvania and his colleagues found
the gene that encodes the protein Oct4 was mis-regulated in about 90
cent of clones from somatic or adult cells.
Oct4 is a transcription factor protein responsible for switching on
genes. Because the gene for Oct4 known is crucial for embryonic development,
its failure alone could account for the majority of clone deaths.
The work should be an additional warning to self-proclaimed human cloners
such as the controversial Italian fertility doctor Severino Antinori,
Schvler. "Antinori has said he'll be able to pick only good embryos
human cloning. Our embryos can look very nice. But they are ticking
"This is top notch, brilliant work," says Robert Lanza at the
Massachusetts-based company Advanced Cell Technology.
In cloning, a donor cell is fused with or injected into an egg stripped
its own genetic material. Unknown factors in the egg are then able
"reprogram" the cell to begin life again as an embryo.
But only a few per cent of cloned embryos survive to birth and some
survivors are unhealthy or develop illnesses later in life.
Experts suspect that part of the trouble is that the reprogramming
sometimes incomplete. But they have not been able to pinpoint the problem
a genetic level. Schvler decided to look at the activity of the Oct4
a model for reprogramming, because it is such a sensitive barometer
The gene is shut off in virtually all adult cells. It is switched on
inner cell mass (ICM), the part of the embryo that becomes the fetus
from which embryonic stem cells or ESCs are harvested.
Work by other groups has shown that Oct4 mis-regulation can derail
embryonic development. The researchers expected to see the gene go
occasionally. But they found that two-thirds of the embryos did not
the Oct4 gene on at all or did not limit expression to the ICM. About
another quarter of the embryos produced excessive or inadequate amounts
Schvler concludes that poor reprogramming of Oct4 is enough to sink
cent of mouse clones, close to the actual failure rate of about 98
Lanza thinks the work raises the exciting prospect that fine-tuning
cloning procedure to improve Oct4 reprogramming could give a dramatic
to cloning efficiency. "This will be a very valuable research tool
optimize cloning," he says.
But Schvler is less optimistic. He sees proper Oct4 expression as only
of the first barriers most cloned embryos must cross.
Davor Solter of the Max-Planck Institute of Immunobiology in Freiburg,
Germany agrees. "Misreprogrammed genes are like cockroaches," he writes
commentary on Scholer's article. "Where you see one there are likely
many more under the surface."
Journal reference: Genes and Development (vol 16)
This story is from NewScientist.com's news service - for more exclusive
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