Prof. John Gearhart tells reporters the truth:
"therapeutic cloning" produces a human embryo, no longer an "egg"
By Douglas Johnson, NRLC Legislative Director
For political purposes, some supporters of human cloning for research (so-called "therapeutic cloning") have in recent times tried to pretend that it is not really "cloning," or that it does not really produce a "human embryo." Fortunately, some other supporters of cloning are more intellectually honest on these points - - among these Dr. John Gearhart of Baltimore's Johns Hopkins University.
On February 26, 2003, Reps. Jim Greenwood (R-Pa.) and Peter Deutsch (D-Fl.) held a press conference on Capitol Hill to promote their legislation to permit "therapeutic cloning." (For details on this "clone and kill" bill, which was rejected by the House the following day, see the story that begins on page 1 of this issue.)
Early in the press conference, Congressman Deutsch told the assembled reporters that because the process of somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) (i.e., cloning) does not involve "fertilization" by sperm, what it produces is merely "an egg, not an embryo."
But minutes later, at the same press conference, this claim was contradicted by Dr. Gearhart, the co-discoverer of human embryonic stem cells, who was there to endorse the Greenwood-Deutsch proposal.
In response to my direct question as to what is created by the SCNT process using human DNA, Dr. Gearhart replied, "I contend it is an embryo."
I followed up by pointing out that an "egg" is by definition a single cell with only 23 chromosomes, which is quite different from a developing individual embryo with 46 human chromosomes. Dr. Gearhart readily agreed, saying, "I don't think anyone is saying that it is just an egg."
When he said that, I was compelled to point out that the reporters had been told exactly that - - that it was just an "egg" (by Congressman Deutsch).
At this point, Mr. Deutsch regained the podium and said that no further questions would be entertained from those not holding press credentials.