January 2, 2002 -- The world's largest general scientific organization, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), today expressed great concern about recent reports of the first cloned human baby, urging policymakers and the public to treat such claims skeptically until confirmed scientific evidence is in hand.
"Such unverified claims, based on work in unregulated, clandestine laboratories, are totally inconsistent with the norms of good scientific practice. They are a disservice to society and can foster confusion over the difference between research using cloning methods, which may lead to important new medical treatments, and attempts at reproductive cloning, which may pose substantial risk to the mother and baby involved," said Alan I. Leshner, chief executive officer of AAAS and executive publisher of its journal, Science.
Peter H. Raven, chairman of the AAAS Board of Directors and director of the Missouri Botanical Garden, cautioned against overreaction to recent reports: "Human cloning claims made last week by the Clonaid company are unverified, and the practice of publishing by press conference is contrary to accepted standards of scientific behavior," said Raven, speaking on behalf of the AAAS Board. "Whether these claims ultimately prove true or false, based on published scientific evidence, we believe human reproductive cloning is premature and potentially dangerous to the offspring created. Human reproductive cloning also should not be confused with methods for developing cells to treat debilitating diseases and injuries."
The AAAS Board of Directors on Feb. 14, 2002 endorsed a legally enforceable ban on reproductive cloning, citing "serious health risks." But the Board supported research using nuclear transplantation methods under appropriate government oversight. Nuclear transplantation methods involve removing genetic material from a human egg and replacing it with genetic material from an adult cell. Electricity fuses the two, causing the ensuing cell to divide and increase in number. These techniques have often been termed "research" or "therapeutic" cloning and are not intended to reproduce an organism. Scientists hope that such cells, containing the adult cell donor's DNA, can then be used to treat debilitating conditions in that donor, while preventing the immune system from rejecting imported tissue.
Claims by the Bahamas-based Clonaid company, affiliated with the Raëlian Movement, also threaten to trigger a political backlash against promising scientific efforts to develop therapies based on nuclear transplantation methods, noted Albert H. Teich, head of the AAAS Directorate for Science and Policy Programs. "A knee-jerk reaction to Clonaid's claims could set back much important medical research for years," he added.
OTHER INFORMATION: http://www.aaas.org/spp/cstc/issues/cloning.htm
Founded in 1848, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has worked to advance science for human well-being through its projects, programs, and publications, in the areas of science policy, science education and international scientific cooperation. With over 134,000 members from 130 countries and 272 affiliated societies comprising more than 10 million individual members, AAAS is the world's largest federation of scientists. The association also publishes Science, an editorially independent, multidisciplinary, weekly peer-reviewed journal that ranks as one of the world's most prestigious scientific journals. AAAS administers EurekAlert!, the online news service, featuring the latest discoveries in science and technology.
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