Amidst reports of first baby cloned by French scientists, a government committee which looks into all aspects of stem cell research, including cloning, is meeting next month to consider the new developments in the area and Indian stand on the issue.
"The National Bioethics
Committee under the Department of Biotechnology (DBT), is meeting on 10th January. Though a regular meeting, it will discuss the complex issue of human cloning along with several other areas in the light of claims of the first cloned baby," said Dr Manju Sharma, DBT Secretary.
Sharma said the committee had considered all facets of stem cell research while framing the country's policy according to which government will not support any cloning effort for reproductive purpose. Thus, there will not be any effort towards human cloning in the country.
However, the meeting will discuss the cloning issue including its beneficial aspects again in the light of the claims by French scientists that they had succeeded in cloning a baby girl, she said. Sharma did not rule out changes in the current policy.
She said cloning is beset with many long-term consequences which had ethical and moral dimensions. It can also lead to exploitation by multinationals. "If a multinational is able to develop a clone and patents it... what kind of impact it will have on society and world?"
"The company will have total right over the clone... it can even produce more clones ...There are many aspects that need to be looked into," she said.
Even if it takes 10 years to develop any cure against these diseases, it will have tremendous long lasting impact on humanity. However, if the technique of cloning is perfected, it will mean a great success in terms of science and knowledge, Sharma said.
But so far the response to the cloning claim had been guarded. In fact, there had been no concrete proof to show that human cloning had been done successfully, she said adding that the cloning involved high science.
However, cloning does have some beneficial aspects. It can help childless couples. Those who have the problem of still-births may clone a baby from the DNA of the still-born child. But, all these aspects have many long-term implications.
There are also the questions of ethics and Intellectual Property Rights (IPR). As a clone is the replica of the parent from which DNA is taken, it may have same problems. In nature, hetrozygosity (an offspring involving genetic material from two different parents) has been favoured as it usually leads to healthier progeny.