Reuters, Jan. 4, 2003
By Eric Onstad
AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – The world’s second cloned baby was born on Friday to a Dutch woman, the head of the Raelian sect in the Netherlands said on Saturday.
“A baby girl was born yesterday evening. The baby is healthy and the mother, too,” Bart Overvliet told Reuters by telephone.
The woman, a lesbian, is in the Netherlands with her partner, but the birth might have taken place in another country, he added.
He said the child was created by Clonaid, the same cloning firm that claimed last month to have organized the birth of the first human clone, named “Eve,” to a 31-year-old U.S. woman.
Clonaid’s initial claim sparked widespread skepticism among scientific experts, and the company has yet to provide DNA samples or other evidence to support its assertions about last month’s birth.
Clonaid was established by the Raelian movement, a religious group that believes aliens landed on Earth 25,000 years ago and started the human race through cloning.
The founder of the movement, Claude Vorilhon, who calls himself “Rael,” told CNN on Friday that Clonaid and the Raelian movement were “very different” and he could not personally vouch for the accuracy of Clonaid’s claims.
Overvliet said the Dutch woman involved in the latest birth plans to raise the baby with her partner and is not a member of the Raelian movement.
“It’s a lesbian couple, but she is not a member of the religion, she got in contact with Clonaid by herself,” said Overvliet, a 45-year-old Amsterdam salesman.
Cloning a human is forbidden in the Netherlands, but nothing in the law forbids the birth of a cloned baby, a spokesman for the Dutch Health Ministry said.
FEARS OF DEFECTS
Clonaid, which says it has a list of 2,000 people willing to pay $200,000 to have themselves or a loved one cloned, announced its initial breakthrough on December 27 and said four more cloned babies would be born by the end of January.
Cattle, mice, sheep and other animals have been cloned with mixed success. Some of these animals have shown defects later in life and critics of human cloning say it is unethical to subject a baby to these dangers.
The Raelians dismiss fears about cloned babies suffering health problems as propaganda aimed at impeding the progress of cloning.
“These scientists don’t want to let cloning progress, they want to stop it because they are afraid of human cloning. They say on purpose that it has a lot of faults and genetic defects,” Overvliet said.
He said Clonaid’s work was a logical progression of in-vitro fertilization (IVF), the technique used to help infertile couples have children.
“Human cloning is more of an extension of IVF, cloning of humans is actually less complicated than of animals,” he said.
The Raelian Movement, which claims 55,000 followers around the world, has around 30 members in the Netherlands, but none of them so far have expressed interest in being cloned, he said.
Aliens who created humans and then departed for their own planet have been monitoring mankind’s progress, Overvliet said.
“They now think we are far enough along in science so we can understand how we were created,” he said.
On Thursday, Clonaid chief executive Brigitte Boisselier said in television interviews that DNA tests on the baby born to an American woman had been put off because the parents were anxious about keeping their identity secret.