State representative files bill to prohibit human cloning in universities

Alexa Ura

More than 10 years after the Human Cloning Prohibition Act failed to pass at the federal level, state Rep. Richard Raymond, D-Laredo, has filed a bill proposing the prohibition of human cloning at institutions of higher education.

Raymond’s bill would amend the Texas Education Code to prohibit cloning of humans and create a civil penalty of $10 million for each violation at an institution.

Institutions that violate the possible law would become ineligible to receive state funds, according to the text of the bill.

Raymond did not return a request for comment.

UT spokesperson Tara Doolittle said University Media Relations is unaware of researchers actively pursuing human cloning, but the University does have labs working with stem cell research and DNA replication.

Haley Tucker, molecular genetics and microbiology professor, said the bill fails to distinguish between therapeutic cloning, which produces human tissue or entire organs, and reproductive cloning, the more controversial form of cloning.

“It is important that society and legislatures should not confuse these issues,” Tucker said. “The problem with [this bill] is that it is poorly written and leaves broad openings for misinterpretation. Hopefully, sane minds will appreciate this and reject the proposition.”

Tucker, whose lab works on mice development and cloning, said ambiguity among cloning techniques often leads to grouping them together. This would be a detriment to the progress of therapeutic cloning, which is a viable technology and can produce a new transplant market, Tucker said.

“It would be insane for the state to ban [therapeutic cloning],” Tucker said.

The section of the Education Code to be amended defines human cloning as the “implanting or attempting to implant the product of nuclear transplantation into a uterus or the functional equivalent of a uterus” and states it does not restrict or prohibit scientific research to develop regenerative or reparative medical therapies or treatments.

There is no federal law that prohibits human cloning or stem cell research. The issue is left to the states to decide. Eight states, including Arizona and Michigan, prohibit cloning for any purpose, and eight other states ban reproductive cloning.

David Bales, board chairman of advocacy group Texans for Stem Cell Research, said support for stem cell research has increased in recent years.

“Raymond is on the good side of the discussion,” Bales said. “We are completely against human cloning, but universities should be funded for life sciences.”

Bales said the organization will be assisting legislators who will co-sponsor bills related to stem cell research support during the upcoming session.

Raymond has previously filed bills proposing the same research regulations as the current bill during three past sessions, but the bills never made it past various committees for review.

Similar bills were filed by other legislators in both the House and Senate in previous sessions that did not make it to the floor for discussion.

Restrictions on research at the state and national level can hurt the capability of research universities to recruit top faculty, UT System chancellor Francisco Cigarroa said during a keynote speech at the annual meeting of the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities in 2010.

“We must continue to maintain a superb educational and research-friendly environment, including the recruitment of the best and brightest faculty from around the world,” Cigarroa said. “Policies such as the banning of life-saving stem cell research will send our scientists to other countries where their work is more valued and supported. But even worse may be a lost opportunity to cure disease and save lives.”

If passed during the upcoming legislative session, the amendment would take effect Sept. 1, 2013.

Printed on Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012 as: Legislation proposes prohibition of cloning