April 14, 2024


 The creator of the first cloned mammal, Dolly the sheep, says that cloning embryonic human beings is a moral imperative, even though he remains "implacably opposed" to cloning adult human beings. In a new book, After Dolly, written with the science editor of the London Daily Telegraph, Professor Ian Wilmut says that "I am extremely concerned about the effects on a child of being a clone of another person and I oppose it. However, an early embryo is not a person and I see the use of nuclear transfer to prevent a child’s having a dreadful disease as far less controversial."

In fact, what Wilmut is proposing is more radical than cloning, which simply duplicates a genome. He wants to create technology which will allow him to alter the genome of an IVF embryo carrying a genetic disease, such as Huntington’s disease or motor neurone disease. Such a technique could easily be used to create children with higher IQs or blue eyes.

Wilmut acknowledges that his views will be controversial, but he says that parents should be given a choice. "Some people will still prefer to put up with the random insults of nature than be subject to human intervention… [But] I want people to have new options when it comes to that most fundamental urge: to bring healthy children into this world," he says. "The use of genetic and reproductive technologies is not a step backwards into darkness but a step forwards into the light." Not everyone agrees, of course. The Scottish Council on Human Bioethics said his proposals were "a new step down the road to eugenics".