Reuters, July 25, 2002
SEOUL, South Korea (Reuters) –South Korean authorities are investigating a U.S.-based firm run by a UFO-inspired spiritual sect which claims it has implanted a cloned embryo in a Korean woman.
As Seoul’s media urged the country to swiftly pass laws against human cloning in the wake of Clonaid’s claim, the South Korean Ministry of Health and Welfare was quick to underline its opposition to the practice.
“We began investigating the company yesterday,” a ministry spokesman said.
The Health Ministry spokesman said the ministry had drawn up guidelines on human cloning which permit the cloning of embryos only for medical treatment.
Clonaid’s web site says the firm was set up in 1997 by the Raelian Movement, which preaches that life on earth was created through genetic engineering by extraterrestrials and that Jesus was the product of advanced cloning techniques.
Other cloning experts have criticized Clonaid for failing to back up its claims of being able to clone a human.
Clonaid project head Brigitte Boisellier, described by the firm as a Raelian bishop, refused to confirm Kwak’s claims.
Contacted in the United States, she told Reuters: “Maybe one of our collaborators was too eager to disclose things.”
But Boisellier said Clonaid had invented and was patenting a new method for cloning embryos. She said they first grew human embryos to the blastocyst stage — the size at which they would be implanted into a woman’s womb — last October.
“Our goal is to do a cloned baby and a very healthy one,” she said. “We should disclose in December the results of the implantations to the scientific community.”
So far only one lab, Advanced Cell Technologies of Worcester, Massachusetts, says it has cloned a human embryo. Its embryos stopped growing after only a few days in the lab.