Japan skeptical about cloned baby claim

Kyodo (Japan), Jan. 24, 2003

TOKYO — The claim by a religious cult that a cloned Japanese baby boy has been born is doubtful but underlines the need for swift establishment of an international treaty banning human cloning, the state minister for science and technology policy said Friday.

“It is a question whether the claim is true,” Hiroyuki Hosoda said at a news conference following the day’s cabinet meeting, referring to the claim by a company belonging to the Raelian cult.

However, Hosoda said, “The parents who requested the cloning may be subject to the law against cloning,” in reference to the law that bans human cloning in Japan.

“We should hurry up with the creation of an international treaty,” Hosoda said, because it is difficult to differentiate between violations that are domestic and those abroad.

On the cloning claim, education minister Atsuko Toyama said, “There is no need to make a big fuss at this stage.”

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Human cloning activities in Japan will not be permitted, said Toyama, minister of education, culture, sports, science and technology.

Clonaid, an affiliate of the Raelian religious sect, on Thursday repeated its claim that the world’s third human clone, a Japanese boy, has been born, following its announcement the previous day in Washington.

“A Japanese clone baby boy was born in Japan on Wednesday morning,” Brigitte Boisselier, the scientific director of Clonaid, told a news conference in Toronto but failed to provide any scientific evidence.

An Asian surrogate mother gave birth to the baby, cloned from the cells of a 2-year-old boy who died in an accident one and a half years ago, Boisselier claimed.

She said an third-party Japanese scientist is conducting cell comparisons to prove the cloning but declined to give any details. A photo of the baby will be posted on the company’s web site as early as within the day.

The Raelians were founded in 1997 by Claude Vorilhon, a Frenchman calling himself Rael who claims in his writings that all beings on Earth were created by aliens via genetic engineering. The sect claims 55,000 followers worldwide.

The group announced the birth of the world’s first human clone to an American woman Dec 27 last year, followed by another one to a Dutch woman, but the group has yet to provide any proof for any of the claims.

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