Cult preparing to clone more babies

The Daily Telegraph (England), Jan. 5, 2003
http://portal.telegraph.co.uk/

Three more cloned babies are to be born by the end of this month, according to claims made by the leaders of a religious cult that believes human life was created by extra-terrestrials.

The Raelian cult said the world’s second cloned baby, a girl, had been born to a Dutch lesbian couple on Friday.

Brigitte Boisselier, a French chemist who heads Clonaid, an offshoot of the sect, claimed last week that they had overseen the birth of the first cloned baby, another girl called Eve, on Boxing Day.

Mlle Boisselier, a self-styled Raelian bishop who is not a specialist in reproductive medicine, told BBC1’s Breakfast With Frost: “Two babies are born now and we are expecting three other ones by the end of January/beginning of February.”

Mlle Boisselier said the second baby was born at 10pm local time, although she would not disclose in which country the birth took place. The two women were “very happy”, she added.

Clonaid has yet to provide DNA evidence or other scientific samples for independent verification that Eve, who was born in the United States, is a clone.

Clonaid would allow independent testing to take place to verify that the babies were cloned but only when the parents were ready, Mlle Boisselier said.

“I want these tests to happen as quickly as possible, because it’s my concern … but not at any price.”

She said she believed when new technology arrived there was always an initial “yuk effect”, or reaction of disgust, but in five years the public would begin to accept it.

Mlle Boisselier has said that legal moves in the United States to take the baby away from her mother had delayed the procedure, prompting fresh scepticism among the scientific community that the baby is a genuine genetic match of its mother.

The organisation was founded in the Bahamas in 1997 by the man who founded the Raelians, Claude “Rael” Vorilhon, who claims that a visitor from outer space told him human life was started 25,000 years ago through cloning.

Raelians have dismissed fears about cloned babies suffering health problems – such as those shown in cloned animals like cattle, mice or sheep – as propaganda by those intent on impeding the progress of science.

If Clonaid’s claims are proved correct, scientists have raised concerns about whether experiments to get to this stage have resulted in babies being aborted or born with mental or physical defects.

Opponents have also questioned the emotional and psychological effects on cloned children, as well as their parents or adult twins, and the consequences for them.

Dr Patrick Dixon, a leading authority on the ethics of human cloning and the author of The Genetic Revolution, said today’s announcement represented the “global race” to produce the world’s first cloned human.

“Most people will react in dismay and horror at this stampede to produce cloned children,” he said. “Already, we are seeing public disgust in America over the announcement of Eve’s birth last week.”

Dr Dixon said science was leaping ahead of legislation on human cloning. Although he was sceptical about the “authenticity” of Eve and the second baby girl, he said the scientific community should treat the Raelian claims as a wake-up call.

He echoed calls from the Royal Society last week for a worldwide moratorium on human reproductive cloning and for all groups involved in research to publish sufficient information about their work to allay public fears about the procedures.

The moratorium should lead to a “total, enforceable, global ban” on the birth of human clones, he said.

Dr Dixon said: “We might have got away with Eve. It might turn out that she is a fraud – but what about all the other mothers around the world today who we believe are carrying cloned embryos?

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