01:53 PM ET 02/25/97

Sheep-cloning scientists try, fail to allay fears

	 
	    By Helen Smith
	    LONDON (Reuter) - France's farm minister conjured up horror
movie visions of ``six-legged chickens'' and a Nobel peace prize
winner compared the breakthrough with the creation of the atom
bomb.
	    As British scientists who cloned a sheep tried Tuesday to
dispel fears that they had brought science to the brink of
creating human clones, the alarm provoked by their creation was
spreading worldwide.
	    President Clinton has already ordered the U.S. National
Bioethics Advisory Panel to report within 90 days on the legal
and ethical ramifications of cloning, especially its
implications for humans.
	    White House spokesman Mike McCurry Monday called it a ``very
troubling subject'' while a poll showed 87 percent of Americanms
believed cloning of humans should be banned.
	    Ian Wilmut, who headed the team that created Dolly, the
first animal to be succesfully cloned from an adult cell, said
he was untroubled by nightmares and that, anyway, genetic
science was nowhere near reproducing humans.
	    ``We have made it clear -- we can't see a clinical reason
why you would do it,'' Wilmut told reporters who came to see
Dolly at the Roslin Institute near Edinburgh where she was
created.
	    But Joseph Rotblat, the nuclear physicist who won the 1995
Nobel prize for his campaign against the atom bomb he helped
create, was not convinced.
	    ``My worry is that other advances in human science may lead
to other means of mass destruction more readily available than
nuclear weapons. Genetic engineering is quite a possible area
because of its frightful potentiality,'' Rotblat told BBC radio.
	    He urged the creation of ethical committees which could put
a stop to scientific projects that could threaten humankind.
	    ``However unpleasant it may be for scientists that science
may have to be somehow controlled...I would like to see the
setting up of an international ethical committee,'' he said.
	    French Farm Minister Philippe Vasseur speculated that the
development might one day spawn the science needed to make
farmyard freaks.
	    ``Even if countries like France, Italy, Spain, Germany and
others have rigorous rules about using science, what you can and
cannot do, tomorrow someone could well invent sheep with eight
feet or chickens with six legs,'' Vasseur said.
	    France would ban imports of anything it thought against the
public interest. Germany's Science and Research Minister Juergen
Ruettgers said scientists must never be allowed to make a human
clone.
	    ``I say that there will never a cloned human being, and that
can never be allowed...each and every human being is a unique
creation that cannot be manipulated with,'' Ruettgers said.
	    ``Research does not happen in no-man's land, where there are
no ethics. It is necessary to examine possible risks and to rule
out unresponsible risks.''
	    The general public worried that all kinds of evil
developments were the logical extension of the breakthrough,
speculating that mad scientists could use genetic engineering to
make copies of dictators like Stalin and Hitler.
	    Commentators said it would be possible for a woman to clone
her own dead father. People with serious diseases could have
themselves cloned for spare body parts.
	    But scientists expressed excitement that the cloning might
lead to a myriad of new ways to help the human race. Herds of
transgenic animals could be farmed for proteins, blood and
organs.
	    Gene therapy, with its ability to manipulate the core of
human and animal life, could provide cures for killer diseases,
and give hope to the crippled, they said.
	 ^REUTER@