The Cloning Watchdogs Who All Think the Same Way; PEER ATTACKS 'BLATANT DISREGARD FOR IMPARTIALITY'
Byline: GORDON RAYNER
A GROUP entrusted with guiding Government policy on cloning is made up entirely of scientists with a vested interest in the subject, it is being claimed.
They either have strong links with embryo research or are advocates of human embryo cloning.
The four scientists have produced a report, said to be based on public opinion, which recommends the legalisation of so-called 'spare part' human embryo cloning to produce replacement organs and tissue.
Ministers are widely expected to accept their advice and overturn the current ban on human clone embryo research when they respond to the report in April. Full cloning of human beings will still be outlawed.
But campaigner Lord Alton claimed yesterday that the committee was 'loaded' and said such a blatant disregard for impartiality was 'indefensible'.
The former Liberal Democrat MP added: 'All four of these people are scientists - why was there no one on the committee to argue the contrary point of view?' Pro-life groups branded the report 'contemptible' and said it should be scrapped and a new broader-based working group set up.
The four scientists were appointed in February 1997 under the Tories although there was no Government involvement in their choice. The group comprises two members of the Human Genetics Advisory Commission and two from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology
Authority who were chosen by the two bodies.
The row, however, follows criticism of New Labour for allowing key advisory bodies on genetically-modified foods to be packed with scientists from the GM food industry.
Most controversial among the cloning committee's ranks was Dr George Poste, 54, the [pounds sterling]835,000a-year chief science and technology officer for SmithKline Beecham (SB), which has backed the principle of human clone embryo research. If such research became legal the financial benefits to drugs companies such as his would be inestimable.
Dr Poste, also a director of SB, has become a multi-millionaire by selling shares in the company which are given to him as a bonus. He still holds thousands of shares.
He shuttles between England and the U.S., where he is a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, with another post at Stanford University.
A fellow of the Royal Society, Britain's foremost scientific body, he has fellowships at both Oxford and Cambridge and posts in the U.S.
Another member, Professor Christine Gosden, caused controversy on a recent edition of BBC TV's Panorama when she said: 'An embryo is a lifesaving tissue generator.
It's a very difficult concept for some people but we have got to grapple with it. …