The improbably named Jennifer Fearing recently penned a tirade against animal cloning. The rant was stimulated by the announcement from South Korean scientists of the first cloned dog, an adorable puppy called Snuppy who is genetically identical to a sweet Afghan hound named Tai. Mistrusting scientific progress that uses animals, Fearing finds the development dark and unsettling.
I would say the same thing about her point of view -- and add ignorant and paternalistic for good measure.
The scientists involved in experiments on animal cloning are doing it to advance scientific research, either directly or to produce genetically identical animals on which to perform experiments. (Reducing the variation among experimental subjects makes results easier to interpret and requires fewer animals.)
Ms. Fearing derides the cloning process as grotesquely inefficient. It is true that the cloners transferred 1095 embryos (each created from an egg fused with a cell from Tais ear) into 123 surrogate mothers but detected only three pregnancies, only one of which proceeded to a healthy puppy. But inefficiency is the nature of any complex medical technology at its inception. In the 1950's, open heart surgery was in its infancy, and the success rate was poor. Two decades later, the new technique of bone marrow transplantation had a dismal record, with most patients dying of failure of the procedure or from infection. Both of these procedures have been highly refined and now are mainstays of modern medicine.
Ms. Fearful er, Fearing knows that her moral suasion will not prevail, so she and other members of something called Californians Against Pet Cloning are pushing for legislation "to ban the retail sale of cloned and genetically modified pets." Beyond being paternalistic and misguided, such a stricture is preposterous. All of the more than 150 recognized dog breeds are derived from a wolf-like ancestor. Picture standing side-by-side a timber wolf, a
Ms. Fearing and the other members of her pack think they can arrogate control over what research is performed and which products are available in the marketplace. But there will surely be widespread resistance to this attempt to impose their pathological anxiety, phobias and dogma on the rest of us. Sic 'em, Snuppy.
Henry I. Miller, a fellow at the Hoover Institution, headed the FDAs Office of Biotechnology from 1989-1993. His latest book is The Frankenfood Myth: How Protest and Politics Threaten the Biotech Revolution.