Raelian clone queen strikes back

Canadian Press, Dec. 19, 2002
http://www.globeandmail.ca/

Roxton Falls, Que. — The woman who is heading a controversial cloning company lashed out Thursday at critics of her plan to produce what she is calling a human clone.

“If I look at the people that are trying to give me a lesson, they are the ones killing and putting billions to produce bombs to kill people on the other side of the earth so they have no lessons to give me [about human dignity],” said Brigitte Boisselier.

Dr. Boisselier is the director of Clonaid, which has been set up by the Raelians, a religious sect founded by a former French racing-car driver.

Dr. Boisselier said the child — a girl — will be born to an American woman in her 30s within a few weeks. She refused to specify the woman’s location — adding the birth will take place outside North America — and dismissed claims the sect is dabbling in evil.

“This is the fundamental right of everybody to reproduce the way that they want,” Dr. Boisselier said in an interview from the eastern United States.

“It should be everybody’s freedom to choose the way they want to reproduce. It should be our right to choose the child that we want.”

A Canadian woman is scheduled to be among the 20 patients who will attempt to become pregnant with their clones in January, said Dr. Boisselier.

Participants include investors who have provided more than $1-million (U.S.) in funding for laboratories. The entire procedure will be made public in a documentary to be released in the new year, she said. The filmmakers have hired a well-respected expert to perform DNA tests to verify that the child born in December is the clone of the mother.

Clones are created when genetic material from a single cell is injected into an egg cell that has had its genes removed. The resulting baby is like an identical twin, except that it is born years later.

Dr. Boisselier also got support from a Raelian who was interviewed at the sect’s compound, called UFOland, in the southeastern Quebec community of Roxton Falls. The centre includes a barn and two other buildings outside a restricted wooded area.

“I believe in cloning, it’s natural,” said an elderly woman, dressed in leopard-skin colours from head to toe with a pillbox hat.

“It’s the next stage of human evolution.”

The woman, who did not give her name, said there’s no doubt that aliens have interacted with humans.

“I can’t reveal it to you but, believe me, I have it.”

The woman summed up several other of Rael’s teachings, which offer a distinct take on religions including Christianity.

“The Virgin Mary was impregnated by extraterrestrials” and “they’ll come to visit us,” she said, her large eyes expressionless.

Dr. Patricia Baird, who headed the Royal Commission on New Reproductive Technologies more than a decade ago, reiterated her belief Thursday that cloning cells to produce a live organism or cloning to produce cells is ethically wrong.

“Given what we know about the success rate and what happens in animals, it is absolutely reprehensible, indefensible and arrogant that these people would even try to apply it to humans,” Baird said from British Columbia.

“When we know the likelihood of harm and then to apply this to human beings where the consequences are so harmful I think is indefensible.”

But back in Quebec, people who live near UFOland don’t seem to share such worries.

“We see them often enough but they don’t really talk about their project,” said Jonathan Groulx, an employee at the local hardware store.

“It’s a bit weird, but it’s what they believe. You can’t really mock someone for their beliefs.”

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This post was last updated: Monday, November 30, -0001 at 12:00 AM, Central European Time (CET)