Clonaid … in Toronto to discuss latest ‘births’

Clonaid, under fire for cloning claims, in Toronto to discuss latest ‘births’
Canadian Press, Jan. 23, 2003
http://cnews.canoe.ca/
By MARLENE HABIB

TORONTO (CP) – Still offering no proof that three babies were born as a result of cloning, the president of Clonaid said Thursday the births are a “love story” that have been met with “disgust, fear and doubt.”

Brigitte Boisselier chose Toronto to give some details of the latest “births” – to a Dutch lesbian couple and a Japanese husband-and-wife – because she was visiting friends here and had been inundated with requests for media interviews. Clonaid was founded by the leader of the Quebec-based Raelians religious sect, which believes life on Earth was created by aliens. The company has no immediate plans to clone a baby in Canada, said Boisselier, adding: “There are no babies here to protect.”

Clonaid said in December that its first human clone, a baby nicknamed Eve, was born to U.S. parents. The company is now at the centre of a court hearing in Florida to determine whether Eve – whose existence has not been verified by independent scientists – should have a legal guardian.

Boisselier has said the seven-pound baby girl was cloned from the DNA of a 31-year-old American woman, and that the embryo was then implanted in her womb and allowed to grow to term.

Many cloning experts, however, have greeted Clonaid’s claims with snickers.

In an interview with CNN, Dr. Arthur Caplan, director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania, said: “We have a technical term in ethics for groups like Clonaid. We call them wacky.”

A Canadian expert on reproductive technologies says “it’s highly unlikely” Clonaid has had human-cloning successes.

Dr. Jeffrey Nisker, co-chairman of Health Canada’s advisory committee on reproductive and genetic technology, said “although there is no law against it, there are moral problems” with cloning.

As a result, Canada is likely to join many European countries later this year in banning human cloning, Nisker said in an interview from London’s University of Western Ontario, where he’s a professor of obstetrics and gynecology.

But Boisselier, her long orange-and-white hair flowing past her shoulders, told the Toronto news conference that Clonaid is mounting on its success.

She said the Japanese newborn was cloned from the preserved cells and tissues of the dead two-year-old baby of the Japanese couple, who are in their 40s. She said she could not offer any immediate proof of the birth, but added that pictures of both the baby who died in an accident two years ago, and the newborn, will be on Clonaid’s Web site in the next day or so.

As well, said Boisselier, the Dutch lesbian couple who allegedly are the parents of a cloned baby girl born Jan. 3 are thinking of revealing their identities soon.

“As a scientist but also as an official of my (Raelian) movement, this is a love story,” said Boisselier, adding that two more cloned babies are expected to be born by early February.

Boisselier said she has also cut ties with the parents of Eve because the parents are scared and want to protect their privacy. The parents, she added, have also decided that Eve would not become a U.S. citizen.

Clonaid, which counts 55,000 people worldwide as members, has been accused of playing up the cloning stories to recruit new members. Boisselier admitted that thousands of people have asked the company for their cloning services in the last few weeks, and that the Raelians have enlisted many more new members.

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