- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 31, 2002

Trapping a human in a cell

Monday's editorial, "Growing pains of stem cell research," purports to be a "review" of the developments in the embryonic stem cell research debate since President Bush's decision to limit its federal funding. Yet, this editorial went awry on a number of fundamental points.

The editorial describes the harvesting of stem cells from the embryo a procedure that always involves the destruction of a nascent human life as "the taking of a potential life." This is a serious misdescription, since the termination of a human organism at any stage of development never involves anything less than the destruction of a fully human being with varying degrees of potential for growth and flourishing. There is no such thing as a partial or "prehuman" organism, and current embryology makes it very clear that the new, living embryo is fully a human being upon the completion of reproduction (whether sexual or asexual, as in the case of cloning). Consequently, the killing of an embryo (or a fetus, for that matter) is not the taking of a potential human life but the morally reprehensible killing of a human life full of potential.

The Bush administration recently announced its intention to allocate $1 million to promote what has become known as "embryo adoption." Mr. Bush certainly understands that there is no such thing as potential human life, and I wish to applaud him for taking this courageous stance.

The editorial also gives the false impression that stem cells from embryonic and adult sources have been performing equally well in the experimentation being done on them. This is hardly true. For one, successes using adult stem cells have so far completely outdone embryonic stem cells in studies being performed on mice and other animals. Anyone familiar with the recent scientific literature knows this. To date, moreover, embryonic stem cells have been completely incapable of producing a single clinical application for human patients.

Adult stem cells, on the other hand, have been remarkably successful in treating a whole array of human illnesses multiple sclerosis, lupus, anemia, Epstein-Barr virus, breast and ovarian cancer to varying degrees have all been successfully combated using adult stem cells.


JOHN HENRY CROSBY

Alexandria, Va.

Zimbabwe defends its policy of might trumping white

Annabel Hughes' letter ("Zimbabwe chart-topper: 'Old Macdonald had a farm, that Mugabe stole,' Sunday) reads like a work of fiction to those who know the land to which she is referring. Zimbabwe's land reform is based on three principles:

n It has abolished the colonial legacy of racial privilege in land ownership, whereby 4,000 white farmers had a monopoly on more than 70 percent of the best arable land. That land is now being shared by white and black farmers.

• No farmer will have more than one farm or a farm beyond a prescribed size. In the past, some white farmers owned as many as eight farms, and some farms were 741,000 acres in extent.

• Resettlement farms are distributed by the government under Model A and Model B schemes. All Zimbabweans are eligible, and the successful names are published. Within these parameters, more than 250,000 landless families have been resettled on Model A plots and more than 50,000 on Model B commercial small-scale farms. The process is perfectly legal, fair and transparent.

Any Zimbabwean national including Grace Mugabe, wife of President Robert Mugabe has every right to acquire land under the above rules. However, Mrs. Mugabe did not seek, and she did not "grab" the land in Mazowe valley, as claimed. The Iron Mask farm was allocated to the Zimbabwe Children's Rehabilitation Trust for a school and a skills center for street children. The minister of agriculture confirmed that the land had been derelict and unused. "There was no farming activity for the past eight years. Not even live stock. The land is now going to be fully utilized," he said. There was no "land grab" by Mrs. Mugabe or anybody else. The allocation of idle land to a children's charity is something all should applaud.

As for Adrian Wilkinson's former farm, Miss Hughes once again makes wild accusations, half-truths and downright fabrications.

First, I am not "the proud new owner" of a 2,964-acre farm, as she alleges. I was offered just 267 acres, which is in line with the maximum farm size for the region.

Second, I saw the farm last December. It was wholly under soybeans. There was no maize or tobacco, as Miss Hughes claims.

Third, neither my brother nor I have ever met Mr. Wilkinson nor, until now, had we known his name. I have no knowledge he was ever "barricaded" or "severely intimidated by ruling party militants." There are no militants on the farm.

Fourth, my brothers only moved onto the farm after Mr. Wilkinson had sold his implements and vacated peaceably. Besides us, there are other new farmers who are all working in harmony to produce the next crop.

It is clear that Miss Hughes, executive director of the Zimbabwe Democracy Trust, does not know what she is writing about, or she is involved in deliberate British distortion and propaganda in support of white farmers who are her kith and kin. She must stop misleading the American people.


SIMBI V. MUBAKO

Ambassador

Embassy of Zimbabwe

Washington

E.U. treats Africa's victims and villians justly

In their Aug. 21 joint Op-Ed column, "Let them eat dust," Dennis and Alex Avery make some misleading and unhelpful insinuations about the European Union and the food crisis in southern Africa that require correction. To suggest that European officials might be "applauding one of the world's bloodiest dictators" shows their complete unfamiliarity with the European Union. Had they checked, they would have found that the union was, in fact, the first to take action against Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's administration by imposing travel restrictions and freezing assets. It also suspended development projects except those in direct support of the population.

As to some countries' rejection of genetically modified (GM) corn in U.S. food aid, the European Commission has not urged any country to reject it. We believe it is up to the beneficiary country to make an informed decision on whether to accept GM corn as food aid. But debating the merits or otherwise of GM food is beside the point. We need to stay focused on the real issue, which is the food crisis.

The U.N. World Food Program has estimated the region's food and nonfood humanitarian needs at about $507 million. The European Union is doing all it can to respond. This year, the commission alone not including bilateral aid from the 15 E.U. member states has provided almost 150 million euros in aid, which includes some 300,000 tons of cereals. This is at least comparable to U.S. efforts in the region. However, unlike U.S. food-aid policy, the E.U. donation is provided, as far as possible, through regional cash purchases in order to support the regional economy.

Obviously, preventing food shortages is better than curing them, and that is why food security is an important part of the European Union's development programs. Genuine food aid, while essential in the short term to feed the neediest, is not an appropriate instrument for creating long-term food security and alleviating poverty.


WILFRIED SCHNEIDER

Spokesman

European Union delegation

Washington

A job by any other name

Marc Freedman, president of Civic Ventures, suggests providing a "stipend" to seniors if they volunteer time to civic activities ("Survey says stipend would encourage seniors to volunteer," Nation, Thursday). Almost out of thin air, the prescription drug benefit is suggested as being the stipend. This whole thing gives a bad name to the term Trojan horse.

If I understand this proposal correctly, seniors would leave their homes and provide a service, and in return, they would be rewarded. In the real world, this arrangement would be called a job. Let's not insult seniors by placing them in some strange new category.

If seniors need additional money beyond their government-funded subsidies (Social Security and Medicare) and private pensions, let them go out and get jobs. Then they would make additional money to pay for prescription drugs and also would pay taxes to support existing government programs. This is the system by which the rest of us live day in and day out. Why put seniors in a parallel universe?


STEVE WALDE

Pleasanton, Calif.

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