Cloning hit the mainstream as a scientific debate when scientists cloned a lamb named Dolly in 1996. Cloning is a process that results in an identical genetic copy of a biological product such as cells, tissues, genes or entire entities. After scientists took cloning beyond the genetic engineering of simple DNA to actual mammals, the controversy grew to new heights.
Understanding Natural Cloning
Cloning happens naturally. Plants and bacteria often use asexual reproduction, which tends to produce an exact genetic copy. Twins are another example of natural cloning, but on a different level. While twins may share the same genetic features, this is not the case with their parents. Twins genetics differ from both the biological mother and father.
Understanding Artificial Cloning
Scientists use artificial cloning for use with genes, reproduction and therapy. "Gene cloning produces copies of genes or segments of DNA," according to the National Human Genome Research Institute. "Reproductive cloning produces copies of whole animals. Therapeutic cloning produces embryonic stem cells for experiments aimed at creating tissues to replace injured or diseased tissues."
Pros of Cloning
Cloning is beneficial in fields such as medicine, agriculture and science. Cloning animals becomes useful when scientists modify animals to produce essentials for human health. Cloning animals may also decrease the number of animals used in animal-testing procedures and laboratories. Cloning can also protect endangered species through re-population.
Cons of Cloning
There have been multiple failed attempts at cloning. The National Human Genome Research Institute states that "Dolly was the only clone to be born live out of a total of 277 cloned embryos." The health effects that cloning has had on animals is a cause for concern. Clones are also subject to a shorter lifespan due to the age of the cells used in the cloning process.
Ethical Issues of Cloning
The cloning of animals and failed attempts at human cloning have been a cause for many ethics-related issues. Human cloning has a direct impact that challenges or runs counter to the moral or religious values of millions of people. There is also the argument that human cloning threatens freedom of individuality. Pro-life advocates oppose the research and destruction of test tube embryos.