The issue of cloning remains one of the most controversial and debatable in a recent decade, causing heated disputes among scholars, philosophers, representatives of religion and sciences, and in the media. Frequently, the advantages and disadvantages of cloning become disproportionately exaggerated, painting either a rosy, optimistic picture of the future of cloning or a dark, negative image of cloning as unethical, immoral, and harmful practice. While proponents of cloning highlight potential benefits of cloning, opponents call potential advantages of cloning empty promises and point out that up to date, humanity did not really benefit from cloning in any significant way, except getting genetically modified foods benefits of which for soil and public health remain disputable. However, the analysis and comparison of benefits and drawbacks that cloning offers indicates that cloning is a positive scientific development and practice that carries a great promise of finding successful treatment to many incurable illnesses, preventing the extinction of endangered animal species, and solving a global problem of hunger and insufficient food resources.
Mirzaee and Chian offer a valuable insight into the problem of cloning. The value of their contribution to the debate about pros and cons of cloning is that authors do not dwell on moral, legal, or philosophical aspects pertaining to the issue but offer a scientifically based discussion and analysis of cloning in the context of heredity, biology, genetics, and DNA through the prism of quantum mechanics. Researchers state that cloning as a way or asexual reproduction cannot possibly be successful because of existing quantum processes during cloning-based cell replication. For example, the act of replicating DNA during the cloning process lacks inherent accuracy and precision of the natural, sexual reproduction. Consequently, cloning process is nearly always associated with glitches in the copying process. Furthermore, while a naturally born baby has a unique, individual DNA (not the same DNA as the mother has, and not the same DNA as the father has), cloned creature receives DNA from a single parent. As a result, a cloned creature gets an informationally imperfect copy of DNA that loses fidelity during the copying process. As a result, all the cloned creatures have inherent biological flaws since natural processes of passing on DNA information and artificial processes occur in different quantum systems. Therefore, the point that Mirzaee and Chian are trying to make is that although a cloning process may be practically executed, the product of cloning is most likely to have inherent deficiencies that make it an invalid, impaired imitation of a natural, biological creature.
Although arguments about deficiencies of cloning that Mirzaee and Chian present are science-based and logically sound, it is worth noting that their theoretical calculations and claims should not be viewed as such that make cloning efforts useless and invalid for several important reasons. First, problems that authors described represent obstacles, not impossibilities. In the times past, scientists have found solutions to many problems that were thought to be beyond the human and scientific capabilities of solving. Therefore, it very well may be that current problems of cloning are going to be solved in the same manner as many other problems have been solved. For example, while in the times past, it was considered impossible to fly to the space, reach Moon or the bottom of the ocean, perform organ transplants, or treat some infectious diseases, all the aforementioned problems were solved. Therefore, it may be reasonable to assume that the problem of eliminating deficiencies of cloning is going to be solved as well, opening new perspectives in healthcare industry.
In their article "The Future of Cloning”, Gurdon and Colman describe benefits of cloning for nature, the animal world, and medicine. Authors believe that people have been using cloning for centuries in gardening by inculcating a branch of one type of a fruit tree to another fruit tree for creating new breeds of plants and fruits. Gurdon and Colman argue that the possibility of making exact genetic copies of animals and, possibly, humans, opens wealth of new possibilities in environmental studies and healthcare field. For example, cloning technology could be applied to prevent extinction and preserve endangered animal species by making genetic copies of rare species. Furthermore, cloning-based experiments on animals help scientists learn more about human diseases such as diabetes, cancer, and Parkinson’s disease and find effective treatments. Furthermore, gene modifications can be used to develop edible vaccines (in tomatoes and potatoes) that are significantly cheaper than traditional vaccines that may be injected. Gurdon and Colman also addressed a debatable cloning-related topic of ethics of biological engineering. They believe that as long as cloning is used to improve the quality of life, increase survival rates of ill people, and facilitate sustainable development of a global society, cloning practices are ethically and morally justified. Therefore, Gurdon and Colman believe that human survival and sustainable development of a global society should be held as standards and measures for determining the value of cloning.
In his article "Moral Enhancement as a Technological Imperative", Gareth Jones addresses another important aspect pertaining cloning. Since religious views are frequently associated with disapproval of cloning practices, Jones takes a challenge to demonstrate that religious dogmas do not necessarily discard the good that cloning bring to humanity and argues that religious and scientific ethical norms should not necessarily be in conflict when it comes to appraising the value and morality of cloning. While author does not agree with the notion that brain intervention-based biotechnologies can be used to improve moral or cognitive characteristics of human beings or achieve bio-enhancement, Jones claims that biotechnological interventions that solve medical problems should not be rejected but welcomed. Jones’ perspective may be considered valuable for the following reasons. First, as a religious person, he demonstrates a great measure of objectivity and flexibility when discussing biotechnologies in the religious context. In contrast to rigid, religion-based approaches to biological engineering that view the idea of biological interventions as inherently immoral and invalid, the author reasons that biotechnologies that help people and are found beneficial should be further explored and exploited. Second, while author argues that good morality cannot be implanted into a one’s brain via biological interventions, he acknowledges the potential benefits of biotechnologies in healthcare.
Although cloning is frequently associated with the image of cloned animals, embryos, and human beings in test-tubes, the concept of cloning and a cloning practice is much broader ad includes a wide range of biotech developments. For example, cloning also implies bioengineering, genetic modifications, and the development of genetically modified foods. Therefore, the discussion of the pros and cons of cloning should be taken and step further, evaluating benefits and drawbacks of cloning in the context of biological modifications of plants, seeds, and food products.
Verma et al. reviewed a group of studies that examined the impact of genetically modified crops and foods and came to the following conclusions. First, pollen from genetically modified crops kills both useful and harmful insects and leads to the development of harmful insects that are resistant to genetically modified pesticides. Second, the consumption of genetically modified foods is associated with negative alterations in major organs of the gastrointestinal system, accelerated aging, immune problems, liver damage, the toxicity of the digestive system, negative immune reactions, allergies, and infertility. Third, genes from genetically modified foods may enter into DNA of humans and trigger mutations.
However, the same study draws attention to findings that confirm significant advantages of biological engineering and genetic modifications in agricultural industry.
For example, gene transfer and modifications help improve disease resistance, pest resistance, and herbicide tolerance in crops as well as improve such characteristics as drought/salinity/low temperature tolerance. Moreover, it is possible to create genetically engineered trees that cause the effect of phytoremediation, helping to clean up contaminated soil that was polluted of heavy metals. Finally, gene modifications can contribute to solving malnutrition problems via creating such crops as rice with high content of proteins, vitamins, and minerals.
Finally, in his article “Genetically Modified Soybeans and Food Allergies”, Eliot Herman examined effects of molecular and cell biology and biochemistry on safety of food products. The author argues that it is safe to consume foods that contain genetically modified ingredients, and that genetically modified foods pose no greater threat to consumers’ health than conventional foods. The author concluded that existing genetically modified crops, including soybean, have not been found to increase allergenic risks beyond the intrinsic risks already present in conventional products.
Therefore, although cloning remains controversial issues that demands further research, the analysis of advantages and disadvantages of cloning, genetic engineering, and gene transfer demonstrates that benefits of cloning and related technologies outweigh risks. In particular, cloning and biological engineering may be used to develop successful treatments to illnesses that are considered incurable, preserve endangered species of the animal world, and solve a problem of lack of food resources.