Cloning Essay

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Artificial cloning is the process of using a single cell from an organism and its genetic information to produce an identical duplicate organism. The procedure relies on asexual reproduction, thus assuring that the new organism is genetically identical to its single “parent” cell, and not a merging of two sets of genetic information (as in sexual reproduction). While the process of cloning occurs naturally and is essential for life, for example among many plants, the concept and practice of artificial cloning has become of considerable interest and controversy as modern technology has made it possible to clone larger animals and potentially even people. The ability to clone cells of nearly all living creatures in embryo form has become a mature form of technology that may be conducted in a large number of laboratories and in vitro fertilization (IVF) clinics around the world. Frogs were cloned in the 1950s and mice in the 1980s using such techniques as transferring DNA material from the cell of one specimen into an egg cell to be born from another after the original genetic material had been removed from that egg cell.

Artificial fertilization techniques, with re-implantation of externally cultured eggs, have made this a comparatively straightforward process. However, the ability to clone cells from an adult organism is significantly more difficult because the cells have divided and differentiated into a very large variety of specialized forms and, even though genetic material such as DNA is present in those cells, it is difficult to clone the cells and cause them to grow into other forms of specialized cells. The team led by the British scientist Ian Wilmut, who cloned the sheep Dolly, achieved this, and some startling successes have subsequently been reported. However, the importance of the technology and the value of its commercial potential have persuaded a number of scientists to falsify their results. The now disgraced South Korean cloning expert Dr. Hwang Woo-Suk is perhaps the most well known of these frauds.

Human cloning has become a very controversial subject, which has been lent additional urgency by imminent improvements in technology. Proponents of cloning point out its potential value in providing replacement tissue and organs for transplants or for combating disease. The techniques also make it possible to tackle genetic diseases. However, opponents of cloning argue from a variety of religious and ethical perspectives, claiming that obtaining the material that is to be worked upon can only be achieved through methods that are immoral. This is connected with the widely held belief that it is dangerous for scientists to manipulate genetic material, because it gives humanity power over life that should only be wielded by God.

Arguments Pro and Con

It would be possible, according to this argument, for scientists to identify sets of people who are, and are not, considered acceptable. This troubles people who believe that all life is sacrosanct, and who fear Nazi-like programs of eugenics. Following the idea that the use of genetic manipulation might be used to improve the physical condition of people able to pay for the treatments, those who could not pay would remain in an inferior physical condition. Some argue that the technology will not halt at simply replacing damaged organs or other tissue, but will also have cosmetic functions, and this is considered unacceptable. These techniques would be particularly useful in livestock industries, especially once technical difficulties have been solved.

Much of this controversy is not directly related to human cloning, but also to developments that might arise from it. There has been much debate within the United States on the use of human stem cells in research. Research concerning public perceptions of this subject suggests that a modest majority is in favor of the research, apart from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United States, where the majority is opposed to it. Some state governments find their policy toward research to be motivated in part by the possible location of large research facilities and the financial rewards that would follow successful cloning breakthroughs.


  1. Arthur Caplan and Glenn McGee, , The Human Cloning Debate (Berkeley Hills Books, 2006);
  2. Arlene Judith Klotzko, A Clone of Your Own? The Science and Ethics of Cloning (Oxford University Press, 2004);
  3. Ian Wilmut, and Roger Highfield, After Dolly: The Uses and Misuses of Human Cloning (Norton, W. W. & Company, 2006).

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