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Published: Friday, 6/18/2010

Backward on bioscience

Before the Ohio Senate went home for the summer, it approved a bill that would ban the cross-breeding of animals and humans.

It's good to know that the Senate - which couldn't be bothered to act on legislation dealing with such trivia as home foreclosures, payday-lending abuses, or political redistricting - has its priorities straight.

The creation of human-animal hybrids is more the stuff of bad science-fiction movies than research actually occurring in our state. But taking no chances, the senators approved this solution in search of a problem.

The measure would declare illegal the creation, attempt to create, or transportation of a human-animal hybrid. It would outlaw the transference of a human embryo into the womb of an animal, or vice versa. The bill mandates fines and prison time for anyone who would seek to profit from such experimentation.

Why did senators waste time on such symbolic legislation while they ignored far more urgent real-world issues?

Two related possibilities are: (1) it's an election year, and (2) the bill has the support of the politically powerful Ohio Right to Life.

At the risk of taking this legislation more seriously than it deserves, you might ask whether Ohio wants to acquire the reputation of a state that discourages scientific innovation by enacting regulations on the basis of bizarre hypotheticals. Would leaders of genuine biomedical ventures, such as stem-cell research and organ-transplant development, be comfortable working in such a state?

That's not what Ohioans had in mind when they voted last month to renew the Third Frontier program. It's to be hoped the state House will have the good sense to bury this exercise in political pandering.

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