Cloning - a nightmare made reality by scientists sleepwalking to disaster?Dolly, the world's first cloned sheep, developed arthritis, raising fears that the cloning process may have given her a genetic defect. The news was a setback for those who argue that cloning can become an effective -- and lucrative -- medical technology. However, it boosted the case of ethicists and animal rights campaigners who say genetic intervention is irresponsible and dangerous.
The idea of cloning provided Woody Allen with a particularly funny scene in "Sleeper" - but, it is now a horrible reality. Our Cassandra warning would be, "Beware the ideas of the Mad March scientists"
This picture explains the problem: although cloning has been embraced by companies hoping to make an enormous amount of money (their unpublicised failures suggest that they are making a killing in the most objectional and unethical way possible) there are defects in cloned animals that are the result of damaged chromosomes. Nature is not so easily violated, perhaps.
"A black baby bull has been paraded by scientists as an example of how cloning could transform the future of livestock farming
The month-old Angus calf named 86 Squared is a copy of an animal that had a natural resistance to three infectious diseases - brucellosis, tuberculosis and salmonellosis - all of which can be passed on to humans through uncooked beef, unpasteurised milk or contamination.
If resistance can indeed be copied into livestock, it offers the promise of herds of disease-free cattle, the scientists claimed.
"The impact of cloning disease-resistant cattle is potentially monumental," said Joe Templeton, a professor of genetics and veterinary pathobiology at Texas A&M University. "This research will benefit ranchers in many countries who cannot afford to vaccinate or test their herds.''
As always, the get-rich-quick brand of scientist is the first solemnly to declare the benefits to mankind of the new bio-technology. We are not only not convinced - we are deeply worried and unhappy.
The governments of Europe propose a scrapie-resistant sheep flock. Ignoring the hard-won wisdom of such independent scientists as Dr Alan Davidson, they imagine that it is a simple matter to do. After all, the thinking seems to be, we need only kill or castrate the millions of sheep with "unsuitable" genotypes.
Are our mad masters about to extend this idea to brucellosis, tuberculosis and salmonellosis "resistant" cattle?