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Stem Cell Farming

Stem Cell Farming

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Dolly the sheep was the first public exposure to genetic manipulation and a slew of dialogue ensued. This article was written in 2006 when George W. Bush was still president. Stem-cell research had center stage for a while, before it lost the public’s interest. The main two things that have changed in this debate since then are funding sources and agricultural applications. It is possible to see stem-cells as a national security issue because other countries like France openly fund research.  But mostly the debate is moral. In late December of last year an uneasy piece was written by Colleen Vanderlinden at treehugger.com supporting rescuing a Nevada research farm with a caveat for the stem cell testing research and application .

“Sheep on site contribute to internationally recognized research that is expanding the potential of gene therapy and stem-cell research in humans. By injecting human stem cells into sheep embryos, scientists have created partially humanized organs in sheep. Though there is no visual difference from other sheep, the goal is to develop the potential for treating birth defects and an array of human diseases and conditions.” http://www.cabnr.unr.edu/about/facilities/MSFL.aspx

The big shift in this debate has been the agricultural application. In 2006 the momentum of the hope of stem-cell research promised a breakthrough in medicine.  Stem-cell grown teeth are a reality but they are a secret of the elite. A dystopian future where the poor are farmed for the health concerns of the elite is still threatening. Even though the Obama adminstration has tried to release funding for stem-cell research it was blocked in 2010 by Bush appointed judges. Not only that but the stem cells that are useful in cell regeneration are embryonic. All researchers want is waste from abortion clinics. Is it possible that creating incentives for abortion waste has its own dystopian blow-back? The future will be here whether we like it or not. Stem-cell therapy has been a secret of the elite for over half a decade.  If we refuse to fund research we also refuse to regulate it.

Article Written in 2006

After the veto of a bipartisan congressional bill by President Bush he stands poised at a podium in front of his supporters. The sound of children can be heard in the background. These children could have been the victims or the beneficiaries of this bill.

The bill in question would have granted federal moneys to subsidize embryonic stem cell research while regulating it under a rigid ethical standard. The squeals of the children can be heard audibly, undoubtedly to supplement the effectiveness of the rhetoric.

The president goes on, the phrasings of delicate ideas of a moral society, of helpless unborn children. The children of unbending moralities walk hand in hand with trade offs of society. Simple trade offs in ethics of the subjective humanity for the abstractions of cells that are the foundations of human life but not in fact human life. The neoconservative opposition to embryonic stem cell research argues that embryos are people. That by damaging these embryos we are killing our kin.

Regardless of any US Supreme Court decisions that may have outlined the criteria of life, many people like the president have taken the stern stance that they are against any harm coming to living things. Some have expressed that act of crushing the nucleus of an embryo as repugnant. Regardless of how anyone may feel about the issue of embryonic stem cell research it can hardly be denied that this is one issue that will impact the medical and pharmaceutical industries and our lives in the very near future. Without the federal influence of subsidies it could become a trade off.

By turning a blind eye to the advances of science on moral grounds and refusing to fund it federally the president and his supporters have refused to regulate it as well. The advances of science will come with or without the help of the government. But by taking an active role in the process, the government can interlace the practice with ethical regulation. Morality directed towards undeveloped embryos for the disregard for living human health particularly that of the poor, if they can not afford it, because it has progressed privately unchecked by the government, much like companies in the pharmaceutical industry.

The standard practice for extraction of embryonic stem cells at the moment involves the usage of embryos for research that would otherwise be discarded from fertility clinics. It has been an uneasy relationship as criticism of embryonic stem cell research is on the rise. Fertility clinics have for many years operated free of any kind of critique because the eggs they harvest have the potential to become among the living. “The dispute has prompted some abortion rights organizations to line up on the issue with conservative Christian groups that oppose embryonic stem cell research (Lee, 2006).” Human eggs are essential for stem cell research but the harvesting of these eggs involve medical risks some of which are potentially lethal. The issue is not only that fertility clinics are separating themselves from stem cell research but also that they can only gain enough embryos this way to facilitate research. If all the predictions of the utilization of this research are accurate then the demand for embryonic stem cells will grow and the sources of this genetic material will also have to expand.

Consequently, certain individual states have enacted their own legislation on the matter and appropriated their own funding for the research. In California proposition 71 in 2004 allocated state money towards the pursuit of this research but also made it illegal for researchers to pay donors for eggs aside from compensation for gas and medical care. The fear that could and will be realized is that lower class women will be exploited at the and of the upper class if they are enticed by compensation from research companies. Fertility clinics already pay women with credentials upwards from $10,000 for donations of eggs.

“Emily Galpern, reproductive health and human rights director for the Center for Genetics and Society, said she feared that without the legislation, poor and minority women would be exploited for their eggs. Though the group expresses some concern about exploitation of women who sell their eggs for in vitro fertilization, it notes that these donors tend to be white, well educated and well paid — often $5,000 to $50,000 because of the demand for their genetic material. Stem cell researchers, in contrast, seek eggs only as a vehicle for someone else’s DNA — so all viable eggs can be used, regardless of class or race (Lee, 2006).”

In this grim scenario where the poor are harvested for their eggs so the rich can live healthy productive lives free from certain ailments the trade off in moralities is evident. It is evident that higher ethical codes of neo-conservatism have overlooked the poor and perceive ethics as an abstraction that only encompasses humanity as a notion. The well-to-do will always have better access to health care in the US then the lower classes under the absence of universal health care. On the other hand there is no guarantee that preventing compensation will protect lower class women from exploitation.

In Missouri ballot No. 7 passed an amendment to their state constitution. The amendment actuates further freedoms to stem cell researchers in a state where embryonic stem cell research is already completely legal. The initiative is backed by a for-profit scientific marketing conglomerate.

“The driving force behind the proposed amendment is the Missouri Coalition for Lifesaving Cures, which has raised $30.1 million to push the initiative. Of that money, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that more than $29 million has come from James and Virginia Stowers, the billionaire founders of the Stowers Institute for Medical Research, a biomedical research company in Kansas City, Mo., that focuses on finding solutions to gene-based diseases. Their new entity, BioMed Valley Discoveries, is a for-profit enterprise designed to market scientific discoveries (Vandiver, 2006).”

Image: dream designs / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The bill was designed to protect researchers from any future protest to embryonic research as well as any future fruits of their labors. To be clear this amendment to Missouri state constitution legalizes cloning. In this particular resolution there are no protections afforded to donors of eggs and the possible exploitation of the poor is a dire reality. In fact, this is a prime example where the rights of privatized research companies are placed far above that of the individual donor or benefactor. “Another controversial piece of the amendment, which is not mentioned in the ballot summary, concerns the sale and purchase of human eggs for stem-cell research. Although the proposed amendment purports to forbid such sales, it includes a loophole: Researchers may obtain eggs from fertility clinics and reimburse for costs that may include thousands paid to egg suppliers for donations (Vandiver, 2006).”

In the lack of universal health care appropriation in the United States pharmaceuticals and health care are often out of the reach of the reigns of the lower class. A privatized stem cell research industry, that is predicted to cure some of the direst of human ailment including Parkinson’s disease and Leukemia, would be out of the reach of the poor. There is already a trend in European athletic circles involving the freezing of embryos in hopes that in the future that these cells can cure injuries that would hinder respective athletic careers. “Paul Griffiths, who runs CryoGenesis, in Huyton, says the celebrities hope the stem cells may, one day, be used to help them to recover from injury or illness. It is predicted the technology will become useful to athletes because their children’s genetic code is similar enough for the stem cells to be injected into damaged areas and begin regenerating them (Murphey, 2006).”

If we as a society have decided abortion is legal. We have set a legal standard for what is human life and what is not. This is a non-issue under constitutional precedent. Since these groupings of embryonic cells are not life they can be bought and sold as any other commodity and should be protected under anti-trust regulations as well as pro quo domestic business standard protecting and regulating the trade thereof as one would any other business. Effectively we must protect the consumer and the producer from exploitation. In an ethical capitalistic society it is paramount to regulate capitalism with restrictions that protect the working classes from exploitation. There are possibly tens of thousands world wide applications in the use of stem cell research those are in the early stages of human trial. The obvious benefactors in the business of privatized medicine are companies that provide medical service at a cost to the consumer and the limited numbers of consumers that can afford such state of the art service. That leaves the poor and disadvantaged not only unable to afford these services but also as a mechanism for harvesting of the necessary biological material that makes these procedures a possibility. In his book Second Genesis, Jeffrey Anderson, paints a science fiction thriller riding the tide of the current debate over stem-cell research. He portrays an apocalyptic future where an ape is injected with human stem cell treatments consisting of the best humanity has to offer. He becomes a chimera greater then his creator. Perhaps even more bone chilling then science fiction are the socio-economic implications of someday introducing the cures for man kind’s greatest afflictions but only curing the top ten percent of the population that can afford it.

Resources

  • Ina Hughs. News Sentinel. Knoxville, Tenn.: Aug 17, 2006. pg. B.5
  • LIAM MURPHY and VICKY ANDERSON. Daily Post. Liverpool (UK): Aug 28, 2006. pg. 6
  • Lee Romney. Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles, Calif.: Sep 13, 2006. pg. A.27
  • Vandiver, Willard Duncan Calling a clone a clone
  • The Sun. Lowell, Mass.: Nov 5, 2006. pg. 1
  • M2 Presswire. Coventry: Sep 13, 2006. pg. 1
  • Wisconsin State Journal. Madison, Wis.: Sep 1, 2006. pg. A.10

About karololesiak

Karol Olesiak served on the USS Ronald Reagan CVN 76 from 2002-2006. He is a plankowner and a graduate of The New School in New York. In 1986 his family escaped Polish Communism by way of Greece due to Polish Martial Law. Karol and his family have been covered by the Christian Science Monitor and appeared on Good Morning America twice. Karol's book, co-written by his brother, containing poetry and short literary fiction entitled "Cold War Kids," is due for release soon.

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