The pros and cons of cloning is a huge subject, which scientists and ethicists have not fully uncovered. One issue when discussing this matter is the different types of things cloned. People might see more benefit in cloning plants or animals than they do in cloning whole people, for instance.
Some pros of cloning plants are cited fairly often. For instance cloning could help reproduce plants that are more disease-resistant. Reproducing superior plants, especially those with nutritional superiority, could help address world hunger issues. Cloned plants also are more predictable, which could help save millions of dollars in farming costs, and plants near extinction could be saved through the right cloning programs.
Similar pros apply to the cloning of domesticated animals, like those providing food sources. Cloning could help produce superior food, create more disease resistant animals and address issues of world hunger. Rare animals might be saved from extinction, especially those animals that do not reproduce well in changing environmental circumstances.
Many people see fewer deeply conflicted pros and cons of cloning plants and animals, but there are some cons to consider. First, efforts to genetically engineer or fully clone plant and animal species could result in lack of needed DNA diversity. Diversity helps to improve survivability in the future, especially when unpredictable things come along. Scientists cannot predict potential development of viruses or other agents of destruction to which a cloned species might need to react in the future.
For example, perhaps scientists decide to clone all the rice in the world. They gradually produce only one type, much more nutritional than other kinds. Other rice is no longer produced and its DNA variants disappear. Some time in the future, a disease hits the rice crop and completely destroys it, and the world suddenly lacks rice.
This is perhaps the biggest “con” to cloning, and the one most frequently cited. Cloning can underestimate the possibility of the need for genetic variation in the future, under unpredictable circumstances. Similar issues could arise for cloned domesticated animals, particularly if they fully replaced animals that created genetic variation through normal breeding methods.
Another of the cons of cloning animals is potential cost. Presently, it is far more expensive to clone than to reproduce animals by other means. Failure rate remains high, though this is likely to be reduced, in addition to cost, if cloning is undertaken on a wider scale. Cost affects another of the pros and cons of cloning food supply animals. Some people feel great reluctance to eat cloned meat, which might lower the value of animals that are cloned.
Pros and cons of cloning humans are more complex. Potential benefits of cloning certainly exist. Among these is the possibility of cloning parts of humans, like vital organs to be used in transplants, which would be likely to nullify organ rejection issues. Some people feel that cloning humans unable to have their own children or who lose children at a very young age is among the “pros” of developing human cloning.
Cons include the methods for cloning, which when they involve fertilized embryos, are considered morally repugnant by some. Others feel that the idea of cloning humans is “playing God.” Another fear exists if people decide to genetically engineer super kids. What would happen to the average person not produced by cloning methods? This is fodder for legitimate scientific, legal, and ethical debate and plenty of science fiction films.
Cost is an issue too, and it would be hard to know if a health insurance company would pay for a person to have an organ cloned, or if these prices would be so prohibitive as to make the process unaffordable or available only to a few. Again, the issue of genetic diversity is an important one. Would cloning eliminate a gene or a piece of DNA today that doesn’t seem important, but might be in a different world some time in the future?
Discussions of the pros and cons of cloning are expected to continue with many people conflicted on what is the best way to proceed. Some cloning already exists, and more is likely to as science continues to develop this technology. Once cloning technology reaches its full capacity, humans will still be left with the question of when and how to apply it.