[EDITORIALS]Cloning Ban Is Bad PolicyThe tentative plan of the Korea Bioethics Advisory Commission to ban cloning of embryo cells is stirring a dispute. The center of the fierce debate is the strict ban on research on cloning somatic cells by nuclear transfer, a core bioengineering technology of the next generation. The plan seems to reflect the voices of religious and civic groups that an embryo is a living organism and the means do not justify the end. If the bill passes its screening, Korea will be the second country after Germany with such a law.
We are concerned about such a move. First, the hopes of patients waiting in vain for organ transplants will be completely banished, because the technology of cloning somatic cells through nuclear transfer is what produces unlimited amounts of organs which do not show rejection symptoms.
Second, embryo cloning is one of very few technologies where Korean researchers lead in world science. A Korean research team including Hwang Woo-suk, professor of veterinary medicine at Seoul National University, has already succeeded in culturing stem cells, hinting that mass production of organs for transplantation may be feasible. The bill will pour cold water on the recently booming bioengineering in Korea.
At this point, we should pay attention to the direction in which the British are going. Despite criticism inside and outside the country, the British parliament passed a bill to allow research on cloning somatic cells by nuclear transfer in January, the first country to do so. The intention was to move into next-generation bioengineering by building on the lead it has from the research which produced a cloned sheep in 1997. Other developed countries, including the United States, generally allow research in embryo cloning in order to conquer incurable diseases.
Research on embryo cloning is a task too urgent and too acute to be an ethics issue. While we limit research on bioengineering by arguing for bioethics, other developed countries are putting their best efforts into developing core technologies. One who plants first will reap the benefits of advanced science. Cloning somatic cell through nuclear transfer is different than the stereotype of a technological Frankenstein. The government should remember that conquering incurable diseases and saving lives through cloning somatic cells would show great respect for life.