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The Bioethics of Interdependence: Shin Buddhist Attitudes on Human Cloning

Naoki Nabeshima, Professor, Ryukoku University, Kyoto

An Interim Report of The Japanese National Bioethics Committee's Commission on Science and Technology

In Japan, the Ishikawa Livestock General Center succeeded on July 5, 1998, in cloning female twin calves from a somatic cell of a cow for the first time in the world. This was accomplished under direction of Prof. Yukio Tsunoda of Kinki University.

According to the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture report of April 23 1999, so far:

  • 57 calves cloned from somatic cells have been born.

  • 35 calves cloned from somatic cells are still alive.

  • 461 cloned calves have been made by nuclear transplantation from embryos.

  • 164 cloned calves from embryo are still alive.
    (These are the figures for March 31 1999)

One hundred eighty cloned calves have been made by nuclear transplantation from embryos in a year on the average. Although Japan has very advanced technology for cloning calves, Japan is extremely cautious in applying this technology to humans.

The Japanese National Bioethics Committee's Commission on Science and Technology produced an interim report entitled "Fundamental Policies on Cloning Technology" on June 15, 1998. Two cases are included in this report, one is a presently applicable case and the other is a potentiality.

 The Japan Commission listed three cases which cloning can be used.

  • To insure a stable supply of food

Cloning technology makes it possible to produce livestock with excellent qualities, such as high quality meat and high milk output, to provide a stable and efficient production of food.

  • To insure a stable supply of animals for experimentation.

Various experiments have been performed using test animals in many fields of the sciences. Cloning technology makes it possible to reproduce a great number of animals that share the same genetic background. These animals will make contributions to develop the sciences, especially in the medical field.

  • To produce genetically enhanced medicines.

Cloned animals which are transformed with genes of useful proteins from humans such as hormones or enzymes can consistently supply these in blood or milk to make them easily available and in large quantity for medical treatment.

The committee also listed the possible application of cloning technology for humans. These are as follows :

  • Cloning technology will give infertile couples a chance to have children.

  • Cloning technology will make it possible to make organs for transplant from cloned animals with integrated human genes. However, so far we have not been able to control the differentiation of the fertilized ova. If a cloned human is made in order to produce the organs for transplant, not only their humanity but also their dignity will be completely negated.

  • In the study of science, cloning technology will lead to the elucidation of cell development, morphogenesis, apoptosis and so on.

According to the committee, cloning of human beings should be banned because there is a danger that the dignity of human will be compromised. This committee provides four reasons:

  • The production of complete human being is using this technology only to satisfy some specified person's self-interest. The commission believes that a society which allows the use of cloning to create human being fails to respect individual human rights and human existence.

  • The cloned human is created through asexual reproduction. To produce a cloned human with cloning technology is an extreme deviation from the common sense of most Japanese, namely that both sexes should participate in the creation of new life and individual genetic information should be decided accidentally through sexual reproduction. There is no variation of genetic characteristics in cloned humans.

  • Even if human cloning technology is used for medical purposes such as infertility treatment, it is an undeniable fact that it can lead to the selective breeding of human beings.

  • Even if human cloning technology is used expediently, except for medical purposes, for instance to store one's own cells (genes) expecting to come back to life in the future, it is a kind of human breeding and is nothing but a misuse of technology. It will serve to confuse the importance of generational succession so fundamental to the Japanese.

Email link | Feedback | Contributed by: Boston University. Video adapted from the Issues for the Millennium Workshop

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