Cloning in context

November 14, 1997

IN HIS review of Gina Kolata's book on cloning (THES, November 7), Martin Ince quotes me out of context in the BBC's Horizon programme where I was additionally edited out of context.

The point I was making was exactly the same one as Ince:it is essential that research on new biological technologies is carried out openly with full public and government discussion and within a suitable regulatory framework. This in a large part already exists in the United Kingdom. For example, the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 administered by Home Office inspectors governs all research in animals, and the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 covers any extension of our work to humans; the only areas not covered are ethical issues with animals.

The committee appointed by mininsters to review and recommend on Ethical Issues of New Technologies in Farm Animals (the Banner committee) did propose in its 1995 report that a standing committee should be established to assess and regulate new technologies such as produced Dolly the sheep (the report even explicitly discussed "cloning"). As a member of the Banner Committee, I strongly supported this recommendation which was rejected by the government of the day.

All the research carried out at Roslin Institute is in compliance with existing regulations and we have made our position on extension to humans absolutely clear ... we do not believe it is acceptable.

We have also made it clear that there is a wide range of biomedical benefits that can flow from this technology and it would be more constructive and simpler (given the international nature of science) to regulate the applications of research than the research itself. Both Martin Ince and Gina Kolata are wrong about the consultation and the public discussion exercise that was mounted in February; this was done by PPL and Roslin Institute together.

Graham Bulfield

Director and chief executive Roslin Institute

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