Many people tend to react to this phenomenon before studying its aspects, uses, and potential evolvement. The explanations are numerous and they are outnumbered by all kinds of interpretations. According to Dr. Harry Griffin from the Roslin Institute, a lab in Scotland where Dolly the sheep was cloned in 1996, “clones are genetically identical individuals”, so for instance “twins are clones”. Over the last two decades, this has sparked harsh debates among scientists, leaders, religious figures, as well as the general public about the nature of this practice and the morality of cloning animals and maybe even humans.
Dolly the sheep in the National Museum of Scotland
Back in the days, cloning referred basically to embryo splitting, which means that the process that happens in the woman’s body to create identical twins would take place in the lab instead. Scientists managed to practice this method on plants and animals several times, leading people to expect human cloning as the next step. According to Dr. Griffin, today’s reference of cloning is not about embryo splitting, but about the process of nuclear transfer. He says “the importance is that with nuclear transfer, you can copy an existing individual and that’s why there is controversy”.
When/if it comes to human cloning, genealogists say that there are two possible types of human cloning. The first is therapeutic cloning, which consists of cloning cells from an adult person for medicinal use. The second type of cloning, and the more controversial one, is reproductive cloning, which involves the creation of human clones.
While the controversy continues, scientists carry a more logic-based approach, such as Sir Ian Wilmut, a British embryologist and Chair of the Scottish Centre for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Edinburgh and the brain behind the creation of Dolly the Sheep. He considers that it is important to create a biobank to preserve material from at-risk species and save endangered animals from extinction. As for the possibility of cloning people, scientists like him agree that cloning cannot duplicate an existing human being, even identical twins are two different people. They do share 100% of their DNA, but are still two different individuals with different fingerprints, traits, and personalities.
Many countries have taken a stand against human cloning. The European Convention on Human Rights in the European Union prohibits human cloning in a protocol that has been ratified only by Portugal, Spain, and Greece. In Australia, human cloning was banned in 2016, but some parts of the country still legalize therapeutic cloning. Many other countries introduced laws that are against human cloning such as Canada, South Africa, Colombia, and Serbia.
Cloning has become a reality, whether we like it or not. When developed for research purposes, it might open new doors for the development of cures of medical conditions. Similarly, this complicated phenomenon will continue to worry many of the general public, particularly the religious populations, for it might contradict with nature and its misuses might plague us. The reality however, is that cloning can be of benefit to humanity as it can be damaging.