Religious sect says it plans to provide proof of human clone soon

The Associated Press, Mar. 16, 2003

Members of a sect that says it has created five human clones said Sunday they plan to produce scientific evidence to support their claim soon.

A company called Clonaid said it performed the first successful cloning of a human last December. Though four months have passed, it has never provided proof, raising deep skepticism of the claims.

Clonaid president Brigitte Boisselier told a news conference in Tel Aviv Sunday that since then, four more cloned babies have been born: in the Netherlands, Japan and Saudi Arabia.

The latest was born on Feb. 4 in the United States, she said.

The religious sect behind Clonaid, a group called the Raelians, believes life on Earth was started by space aliens.

Boisselier, who said she was in Israel to visit the first-born clone, Eve, told a news conference that the baby’s parents were U.S.-born Israeli citizens, but she refused to identify them.

Members of the Raelian sect would not disclose Eve’s birthplace, but said she was not born in either the United States or Israel, although the parents and child are now living in Israel and intend to stay, they claimed.

Boisselier said Eve’s mother had asked for her DNA to be cloned after prolonged fertility treatments failed to produce a pregnancy. Eve, born on Dec. 26, is in good health and developing normally, she added, as are the other four babies.

“They are doing perfectly well,” she said. “You can’t see any difference between them and any baby born by any other technology.”

She said a further 20 implants had been performed, resulting in several more pregnancies. She did not say how many.

Boisselier said the parents of the cloned babies planned to set up an association in Brazil, where the legal climate is more sympathetic to cloning, and the group has been invited to speak to the Brazilian parliament. She said scientific evidence proving the existence of one of the clones, a boy, would be produced in coming days.

“All the proofs for the Japanese baby are ready to be published and that should be in a few days … maybe next week,” Boisselier said.

The evidence would include the results of DNA testing performed by a credible scientist, she said, adding “Not someone chosen by me.”

Boisselier said about 50 Israelis and Palestinians had asked to use the group’s cloning technique, among them several on both sides who had lost a child during 29 months of Israeli-Palestinian violence and wanted to reproduce their lost offspring, she said.

A 1998 Israeli law imposed a five-year moratorium on human cloning, although it permits stem cell research in which the cloned cell is not implanted into the uterus. Raelian spokesman Kobi Drori said he believed cloned births might become legal in Israel by early 2004.

Attempts to make any such change would face strong ethical and religious opposition in Israel.

At one point the news conference was interrupted by a man dressed as an ultra-Orthodox Jew, who shouted at Boisselier that her work was criminal and against Jewish beliefs.

“My mother could duplicate herself ! I will have 10,000 mothers,” he screamed. “What will I do with 10,000 mothers, I can only stand one !”

He was forcibly removed by a security guard after a scuffle in which Boisselier’s lectern was knocked flying, while a video cameraman accompanying the heckler filmed the proceedings.

A journalist at the news conference said he recognized the man as a professional actor he had seen on television, but Israeli Raelians present said they believed he was genuinely motivated by religious conviction.

After posing with the Hebrew-language edition of her book, The Truth About the Gods, which explains the Raelian belief that life on Earth was created by space aliens, Boisselier displayed what she said was a machine designed for Clonaid in Korea, which fuses cells from the clone subject with an egg from the mother-to-be with electronic pulses.

Clonaid’s Internet Web site offers the “fusion machine” for sale at US$9,220 for the top-of-the-line model.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Monday March 17, 2003.
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