Human Clones: Coming Soon to a Store Near You?

Last week, Chinese scientists reached a significant milestone when they successfully cloned a pair of baby long-tailed macaque monkeys, named Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua. The team of scientists achieved this feat using the same nuclear transfer technique that created Dolly the Sheep more than 20 years ago.

Lead researcher Mr. Muming Poo had this to say: ““Humans are primates. So (for) the cloning of primate species, including humans, the technical barrier is now broken.” He added that their intention was to to produce animals for research with “no intention to apply this method to humans.” Regardless of what the intentions were, it now shows that human technology has progressed in ways unimaginable only a decade ago, and brings us one step closer to the “black mirror”-esque reality of human clones

With the controversial practice of cloning back in the news spotlight, are there any moral or real issues tied to cloning that still trouble our society?

First of all, there are significant health risks and huge inefficiencies in cloning. To clone the two monkeys, it took 127 eggs (meaning 125 were lost). Health problems in cloned animals are also documented, with Dolly the sheep dying only 6 years into her expected 12-year lifespan after developing a serious and progressive lung disease. Scientists have also noted from the limited pool of data that clones experience a higher level of cell aging and depletion of red and white blood cells, resulting in many young/premature deaths. Further research shows that many key body parts in cloned species do not develop properly, and will likely cause the same problems in hypothetical instances of human cloning. Kathy Guillermo, PETA Senor Vice President, has severely criticized the cloning saying that ‘“Because cloning has a failure rate of at least 90 percent, these two monkeys represent misery and death on an enormous scale.”

Aside from quantifiable risks, there are also moral issues that are raised when we consider human cloning. Are we not playing God? The abuse of such a powerful technology is an important one. Imagine what a criminal or corrupt individual will do after cloning himself.

Since a clone can perform almost every cognitive and physical task that its original “copy” can do, it is possible that human clones will probably be illegally trafficked or traded, even used as labour. Would a clone be held responsible for a crime that the other commits, or the other way around? How would we differentiate clones and how could someone exploit these grey areas for their own gain?

While we should celebrate the hard work of these scientists, it’s likely too early to consider cloning humans — evidence has shown that there is still a long way to go and would inevitable cause more suffering than any possible good. Maybe we can explore applying this technology in cloning lost limbs and organs? Should lawmakers start drafting legislation in anticipation of this (inevitable) timeline?

What are some of the concerns you have for cloning? We would love to hear your opinions in the comments below.