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Potential harms and benefits of cloning

10. Arising from our investigations, we identified the main research areas in which the technology of cloning by nuclear transfer may be considered to have potential beneficial application both within agriculture and in other fields. These are:

a) applied biomedical research - by utilising nuclear transfer as a means of gene targeting to achieve very precise manipulations of the genomes of farm species. This may be relevant to the production of:

b) fundamental academic research - to improve our understanding of the control of cell differentiation and development and of the ageing process.

Hence there are reasons why cloning might be permitted in the research environment. However, neither of these categories might be considered to be an agricultural application, and our remit was to consider the implications for farmed livestock. Therefore, whilst recognising that the above research may lead to knowledge which may ultimately be important in agricultural practice, we also recognised a third important potential application, more relevant to agriculture:

c) livestock breeding - possibly only at the elite level, for example to disperse the genes of elite animals or for the conservation of rare breeds.

11. Whilst these might be considered to represent the case in favour of cloning, there are important ethical arguments against cloning, some of which, if accepted, would lead to the conclusion that cloning should not be permitted in any circumstances no matter what the benefits. We adopted a strategy similar to that applied by the Kennedy Committee in 1996 considering xenotransplantation. If we concluded that cloning of farmed livestock was ethically unacceptable, all other questions would fall away. If we concluded otherwise, then other questions arise concerning the safeguards which need to be in place.