MSNBC, Dec. 31, 2002
MSNBC NEWS SERVICES
Dec. 31 — A newborn said to be the first human clone has gone home with her mother and was expected to undergo DNA testing Tuesday, according to Clonaid, a cloning company linked to a sect that believes space aliens created life on Earth. Meanwhile, a lawyer in Florida asked a judge to appoint a guardian for the baby, saying that Clonaid is trying to commercially exploit the child and that she needs specialized medical treatment.
“They are at home. They came home today. … I don’t want to disclose anything about their home,” said Brigitte Boisselier, chief executive of Clonaid.
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“We are very concerned about (their security),” she said. “We don’t want the parents to be bothered at any time … until they are ready.”
Boisselier previously said the child’s mother is American but has offered no further details. Neither she nor Clonaid spokeswoman Nadine Gary would say where in the United States the mother is from, where the child was born or what U.S. city they would be arriving in.
Boisselier told Reuters that genetic testing needed to prove whether the child is really a clone was scheduled for Tuesday.
“Hopefully it’s going to be done tomorrow,” she said. “At least the (genetic) sampling should be done tomorrow. We’re working on it to make sure everything is going fine.”
Boisselier announced on Friday that Clonaid scientists had produced the world’s first cloned baby. She said a healthy 7-pound girl was delivered by Caesarean section Thursday and was an exact genetic copy of her mother.
Boisselier offered no scientific proof, provided no photographs and did not produce the child or the mother, who she said is a 31-year-old with an infertile husband. Her claim was met with doubt by the scientific community and revulsion by many ethicists.
A Florida lawyer went to court Tuesday and asked a judge to name a new guardian for the baby. In documents filed in Broward County Circuit Court, attorney Bernard F. Siegel said that if the judge determines the baby is in danger, she should be turned over to state care.
Siegel admits in the documents that he does not know if the baby is in Florida, but argued that the court has jurisdiction because Clonaid held its news conference in the state last week. No hearing date has been set.
Clonaid did not immediately returned a call seeking comment.
The United States has no specific law against human cloning. But the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which regulates human experiments, says its regulations forbid human cloning without prior agency permission, and has launched an investigation into whether Clonaid illegally performed any work in the country.
South Korean prosecutors were trying to verify reports that Clonaid officials impregnated a South Korean woman with a cloned human embryo and moved her out of the country in July.
Prosecutors in South Korea have also launched an investigation into Clonaid’s activities in that country. They recently seized documents and research data from a South Korean biotech company that reportedly helped Clonaid with the impregnation of a South Korean woman, the national Yonhap news agency said.
Prosecution officials quoted by Yonhap did not identify the country where the woman was thought to have gone.
Several countries have already banned human cloning, including Germany and Britain. Sweden is drafting legislation that would ban reproductive cloning but allow “therapeutic” cloning for stem cell research.
So far, scientists have succeeded in cloning sheep, mice, cows, pigs, goats and cats. Last year, scientists in Massachusetts produced cloned human embryos with the intention of using them as a source of stem cells, but the cloned embryos never grew beyond six cells.
Many scientists oppose cloning to produce humans, saying it’s too risky because of abnormalities seen in cloned animals. Among the possible problems are premature aging and various maladies.
BABY TO UNDERGO DNA TESTING
To provide convincing proof that “Eve” is a clone, Boisselier said she had accepted an offer by a former ABC News science editor, Michael Guillen, who has chosen independent experts to draw DNA from the mother and the newborn and test them for a match. Boisselier said she did not know the expert selected and Guillen was not available for comment.
“We don’t expect Mr. Guillen to become available for comment until everyone knows indeed whether or not this is a genuine clone,” said an employee of a New York publicist that represents Guillen.
Clonaid was founded by Claude Vorilhon, a former French journalist and leader of a sect called the Raelians. Vorilhon, who calls himself Rael, claims a space alien visited him and revealed that extraterrestrials had created all life on Earth through genetic engineering.
Boisselier, who has two chemistry degrees, identifies herself as a Raelian “bishop.” She says Clonaid retains philosophical but not economic links to the Raelians.
She has said a second cloned baby is due to be born next week to a lesbian couple in northern Europe. Boisselier had previously announced that four couples, including the lesbians, were expected to give birth to Clonaid-created clones by early February.
Vorilhon said Clonaid has a list of 2,000 people willing to pay $200,000 to have themselves or a loved one cloned, the Miami Herald reported.
Vorilhon, who describes himself as a prophet, told the Herald on Sunday that he had distanced himself from Clonaid since its founding but expected the company to make money and to ultimately create eternal life.
“It’s a commercial company and her goal is to make as much money as possible, and I hope she will make as much money as possible,” Vorilhon said of Boisselier.
Vorilhon, who had his hair in a topknot and was dressed in what the Herald described as “white, space-age clothing from head to toe,” claims to have been contacted on Dec. 13, 1973, outside Paris by aliens who told him that life on Earth had been created in laboratories by scientifically advanced people from space. He told the Herald that Raelians are at the vanguard of science and philosophy.
“The problem is that you have men of today with tomorrow’s technology and yesterday’s philosophy,” he said.
“People are lost and misguided by primitive religions … they are trying to slow down science. Nothing can stop science.”