According to Webster’s dictionary, cloning is defined as “the technique of producing a genetically identical duplicate of an organism by replacing nucleus of an unfertilised ovum with the nucleus of body cell from the organism”. In bio-chemistry terms, cloning is to “replicate a fragment of DNA placed in organism so that there is sufficient to analyse or use in protein protection”, in other words to propagate organism or cell as a clone.
What is Cloning
In layman’s term cloning is analysis of the phenomenon that is not from ‘reproduction system’ of female eggs and male sperm combination to produce offsprings of animal and human species or traditional way of producing fruits and vegetables.
Historically, in 1903 Herbert Webber of US Agriculture Department coined the word “clon” that is now known as ‘clone’. Brigs and King cloned frogs in 1952 and fish was cloned in China in 1963. Sheep was cloned by embryo splitting in 1979. Mammal cloning got under way by embryo-derived cell culture in unlimited number from a single embryo. Interesting it is to note that an Arab Clan Chief way back in 1322 used artificial insemination to produce superior horse and, in 1869 Meischer discovered DNA in the sperm of trout. Whilst in 1891 Walter Heap performed first embryo transfer in England with rabbits.
Types of Cloning
- Recombinant DNA Technology or DNA Cloning
- Reproductive Cloning orTherapeutic Cloning
Reproductive Cloning is a technology to generate an animal that has the same nuclear DNA as another currently or previously existing animal. Dolly the sheep was created by “reproductive cloning technology “. Process was also called “somatic cell nuclear transfer”. Scientists transfer genetic material from nucleus of a donation adult “cell” to an egg whose nucleus genetic material has been removed. Reconstructed egg containing DNA from donor cell is treated with chemical or electric current in order to stimulate cell division. Once the cloned embryo reaches a suitable stage, it is transferred to the uterus of a female host where it continues to develop till its birth.
Dolly the sheep, a success of this technique proved that the genetic material from a specialised adult cell, such as an udder if required, could be programmed to generate an entire new organism. Imperative it is to note that some scientists believe that errors or incompleteness in the programming causes high rate of death, deformity and disability that has already been observed in cloned animals. Dolly the sheep had developed arthritis prior to dying at the age of twelve. Sheep meat, mutton is normally consumed from animals that are three or four years of age and not beyond.
The day is not far when Therapeutic Cloning technology may be used in humans to produce whole organs, skins or to coin a phrase ‘designer babies” from single cells. So far kidneys, skin, human ears, human arms, new blood vessels for prostatic cure, growing of retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells to cure blindness, artificial blood, mini brain from human cells, dogs, pig with patterned skins (for hand bags and other fancy usage) and expert researches and extended experiments on rats to further the necessitated emergencies of the future possibilities balanced human requirements, have successfully been processed and produced.
What are the Risks of Animal Cloning?
Reproductive Cloning is expensive with a low success rate; cloned animals tend to have more compromised immune function, higher rate of infection, tumour growth and various other disorders. Irony is that cloned animals have not lived long and died somewhat mysteriously. It is known that Dolly the sheep died of arthritis and a degenerative lung disease at twelve years of age, but the question is, do we normally keep sheep alive for that long? Technically, sheep are slaughtered and consumed before their fifth year of life. Therefore, animal health and welfare are the issues here. As per Dr David Morton of Birmingham University, animal husbandry is of dire importance for both animal mental health and ethical framework and the following freedom factors should be considered as mandatory:
- freedom from discomfort
- freedom from thirst, hunger and malnutrition v freedom from pain, injury and diseases
- freedom to express normal behaviour and should have the company of the own kind/species of animals and
- freedom from fear and distress
Further Animal Welfare
Concerns over Cloning of Farmed Animals
- invasive medical intervention, as performed on donor animals – for oocysts extraction, and on surrogate mothers. Such extraction for sheep and pigs is usually surgical which causes stresses of recovery
- Suffering caused to surrogate mothers with prolonged pregnancy and unborn are heavier than normal, which in turn causes painful birth
- Abnormal foetal development and late pregnancy mortality, which ends in frequent death usually in the second half of the gestation period
- Postnatal mortality shows that cloned offsprings die at delivery or before weaning and, the complications namely are, gastroenteritis, the umbilical infections, cardiovascular defects, skeleton and neurological defects together with susceptibility to lung infections and digestive disorders
- Health problems during life; cloned animals may have a greater propensity in later life for respiratory problems, immune system deficiencies as well as other ailments stated earlier, then normal traditionally produced animals
Should Animal Cloning be Banned?
Welfare concerns stated above supported European Union for proposing temporary ban on Animal Cloning. It should be kept in mind that Organ Cloning could be instrumentally beneficial and a good substitute for mankind like blood transfusion is now. Mind, even though it is not directly mentioned in the Qur’an and the Sunnah in relation to permissibility of blood transfusion, still by way of ijtihad (diligence) it is being used as a remedy and healing as granted.
European Food Safety Authority said under ‘animal welfare issues’ that “the mortality rate of clones is considerably higher than in sexually produced animals and there is evidence of increased morbidly of clones compared with traditionally produced animals”. It shows reluctance for recommendation of cloned animals for inclusion in food chain. On ethical point European Group on Ethics in Science and Technology (EGE) published a report in 2008 where it states “ considering the current level of suffering and health problems of surrogate dams and animal clones, it did not see convincing arguments to justify the production of food/s from clones and their offsprings “
The Article 43 of the Treaty of the European Union in legal aspects of risk management for animal health and zootechnics, does not distinguish between animals produced by different reproduction technologies like animal insemination, embryo transfer, embryo splitting, in-vitro-fertilisation or cloning; as from genetic perspective none of these practices have any affect on the genome or susceptibility to infectious diseases.
Professor of Theology in Linz, Austria, Michael Rosenberg asks a potent question, “does cloning violate realm of the Creator”? The answer is more popular than scientific, as many do argue for ethical reasons and that includes Prince Charles. They believe that cloning and genetic modification both intrude into areas that are the preserves of the Creator. This testimony will only reach and convince the believers. For non-believers it somewhat does not seem to be valid! Polemic question is, what is definition of the Creator? The answer is simple, someone who brings something into being from not-being. Producing something out of nothing! But since in cloning living cells are being used to bring into life a cloned creature; then does it tantamount to violating the Nature or the domain of the Creator? The answer is, no.
It should be said that such arguments might not be sufficient to forbid farmed animal cloning, but they still stand to be strong and valid reasons to preserve environmental., field culture, woods, and cultivate and guard this precious “garden of earth”.
In UK some scientists oppose to cloning as they bellicosely say that enough research has not yet been done on its merits and its effects on human health (post consumption of cloned meat and milk). The meat and food industry is half-hearted about its prospects and industrial vigilance has already started as some unscrupulous processor has developed potato crisps like the rivals, yes, by ‘cloning’!!
EU Directive on the Protection of Animals kept for Farming purposes (98/58EC) clearly states “natural and artificial breeding or breeding procedures which cause or are likely to cause suffering or injury to animal concerned, must not be practiced “. Food Standards Agency UK for labelling purposes declared in the Times of Nov 26, 2010 “that evidence suggests that there is little or no risk to the public from consuming cloned products, stating that differences, if there were any, between conventional cattle and the offsprings of a clone would disappear from the second generation .
However, Ms Joyce D’Silva of the Compassion in World Farming categorically states that “cloning and genetic engineering of farmed animals is taking us in the wrong direction – towards perpetual factory farming, when the society trends point towards conventional farming and respect of animals as sentient beings. The aims of cloning and practice themselves are, therefore, an ethical and animal welfare issue”.
Public perception may be opposed to animal cloning and it’s efficacy for food and food-chain, but the fear is that in irresolute way cloned products like ‘meat’ and ‘milk’ would reach supermarket shelves long before we think. It would appear that only then, Muslim scholars will have squawking chorus of condescending nous and criticism of the developing phenomenon; then it might be too late to research for religious and ethical dictum, axiom and permissibility of usage. It goes without saying that learned Muslim scholars should individually and collectively do research and scrutinise the issue of permissibility of consumption of cloned meat and milk thereof; otherwise we will find ourselves either using the benefits of cloning, if there would be any, or taking it for granted as it was in the case of microphone for adhan and photography where having declared these to be forbidden, we would not find a single mosque without microphone now and, Ulemas are imparting Islamic ethics and teaching and the shari’ah to learn how to be a good Muslim. Definitely an important point to ponder!
Having catalogued the findings, opinions veracity and credibility and apprehensions, we Muslims have to look at “cloning surge” from two angles, firstly to visualise how it is going to be monitored, and secondly, how the halal status or permissibility of consumption of cloned meat and milk and other tentative products (as there are likely to be) would be inspected, audited and authenticated?
Evaluation for Islamic Ethics
Halal Consultations concurs with advancement of science and technology in fields that relate to the betterment of animal kingdom and the mankind, as long as it remains subservient to the Islamic Jurisprudence and does not in any way contravene doctrine, maxim and tenets of the Qur’an and the guidelines of ahadiths. To fortify the pivotal and exigent points of the cloning issue we would suggest the following caveat, provisions and qualifications:
There must be EU and global identification and registration system of Cloned Animals, offsprings and their descendants to track back the origin of animals as regards the use of the cloning technique for permissible animals for the food chain
- Risk Assessment
Aside the other factors we must have manifest rulings on environmental impacting of the great change from traditional sexual reproduction system to cell technique – genetic engineering with special emphasis on reverence and respect of the animals
- Animal Welfare
Assurance is required that such cloned animals would be free from physical deformities, thermal discomfort and undue distress and would also be free from any risks to diseases
- Food Safety
Islamic axiom, standard and criteria for definition of Halal Foods would always apply whence endorsement and validation for halal status is done with emphasis on meat and foods being:
- Pure and
- Safe and fit for human consumption
- e) Labelling and Passport
In pursuance to traceability regulations in vogue and to keep the Modus
Operandi practically efficient there should be introduction of passports for ‘cloned animals’ just like we have had for the beef labelling. With data control and registration it would be easy to identify and differentiate between traditional meat and milk from the so called “ Cloned Animals”. Definitely it would give a choice for those who would not join to be partial to “cloned foods”. Therefore, labelling should be made mandatory for the sagacity, tenacity and safety of mankind now and in the future.
Reviewed 31st December 2015