American scientists seem to have forfeited their chance to convince the government to support research into therapeutic cloning as the source of a new generation of rational therapies. It was not always this way. As a young scientist working at Cold Spring Harbor in the early 1970s, my telephoning Paul Berg at Stanford University concerning his work on recombinant DNA and tumor viruses led to the Asilomar conferences, from which the voluntary moratorium on recombinant DNA work emerged, leading to the formation of the NIH's Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee, a model of bioethics at work to this day.

At first sight, it seems too late for revisiting the recombinant-DNA precedent, as President George W. Bush already has issued a ban on federal support for any manipulation of a human egg cell except for fertilization by donor sperm, and then only so that the resulting pre-embryo may be placed in a...

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