AFP, Dec. 28, 2002
London – A scientist at the British research centre that produced the first cloned mammal warned on Saturday of the dangers of human cloning, a day after a US cult claimed to have successfully cloned a baby girl.
“I clearly do find it objectionable,” Dr Harry Griffin told BBC radio. Griffin is the spokesman for the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh, which made history in 1996 by producing the first cloned mammal, Dolly the sheep.
“All the groups that work on cloning with animals – cattle, sheep, pigs, mice, goats – all have reported a high incidence of miscarriage deaths, high incidence of deaths seen after birth and problems with the clones later on in life,” Griffin explained.
“It is not an inevitable consequence of being cloned but it is a common consequence,” he said. “The reasons are very clear and have been very clear to Clonaid and the other groups that have been attempting to clone children.”
The controversial Clonaid company announced on Friday it had produced the first cloned human and said more infants who are genetic replicas of a single individual would be born in the coming weeks.
Clonaid, based in Las Vegas, is funded by the Raelians, who claim 55 000 followers worldwide. The Raelians believe life on Earth was established by extra-terrestrials who arrived in flying saucers 25 000 years ago and cloned humans.
Baby Eve was born by caesarian section in Miami on Thursday, weighs 3.1kg and is the exact genetic duplicate of her 31-year-old US mother, according to Clonaid head Brigitte Boisselier.
The company has not so far produced evidence to back up its claim.
Since Dolly was born, scientists have cloned mice, cows, pigs, goats, rabbits and cats.
But her birth came after 276 failed attempts at cloning that produced many disfigured and dysfunctional animals. Scientists say just three percent of cloned animals are born alive and many of those that have survived have had serious defects and deformities.
Despite appearing to be a normal lamb at birth, Dolly has developed unusually early arthritis that may be the result of a genetic defect during the cloning.
British scientist Dr Patrick Dixon, a leading specialist on the ethics of human cloning, also strongly condemned the Clonaid announcement.
Dixon said he believed the world would react with “revulsion and disgust” if Clonaid’s claims were verified by independent scientists.
“There’s a global race by maverick scientists to produce clones, motivated by fame, money and warped and twisted beliefs,” he said.
“Can you imagine what it will be like for a 12-year-old daughter to look at her mother and realise she is seeing her own sister?
“What will it do to her sense of personal identity, knowing that she’s only a copy of someone else who is much older?”