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Human Cloning Effort by Religious Group Reportedly to Begin

Genetic Crossroads
December 7th, 2000

The scientific director for the Raelian religion, which believes that
humans are clones of extraterrestrial scientists and that human cloning
is the key to eternal life, said the group has begun work to clone a
10-month-old American girl who died earlier this year. The Sunday Times
reports that the "project is being carried out in a secret laboratory" in
Nevada, and the "scientists involved hope their baby will be born towards
the end of next year" (Lois Rogers,"`Aliens' cult about to clone dead
baby girl," Sunday Times, London, 11/5/00, <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/>).

The Raelians have announced that an anonymous US couple has given their
human cloning company, Clonaid, more than $1 million to clone their dead
daughter from preserved cells. The group claims to be working with four
qualified scientists and 50 female volunteers who will act as egg donors
and surrogates for the clone. The Clonaid web site states, "This service
offers a fantastic opportunity to parents with fertility problems or
homosexuals," and promises to drop its charge for "cloning services" to
"as low as $200,000." See <www.clonaid.com>.

The Rael religion claims 55,000 members in 84 countries (<www.rael.org>),
and has raised millions of dollars for other projects, including a plan
to build an embassy near Jerusalem for the extraterrestrials.

Coverage of the Raelian cloning announcement in the Washington Post
highlighted assertions by scientists including Lee Silver (Princeton
University) and Michael West (Advanced Cell Technology) who believe that
producing a cloned human is technically feasible. According to George
Seidel, a "cloning expert" at Colorado State University in Fort Collins,
"It's a numbers game. It's very likely that if you did it enough times
you could make it work" (Rick Weiss, "Human Cloning's `Numbers Game,'"
10/10/2000, <http://washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A39671-2000Oct9>).
Other reports focused on scientists who have strongly criticized the
project. Ian Wilmut, for example, condemned it as "absolutely criminal"
(Rogers, Sunday Times).

Whether or not the Raelians are in fact able to create a cloned child,
their claims represent an important challenge to US policy makers and
to the American public. If a cloned child were to be created, opponents
of human genetic manipulation should take the event as a catalyst for
action. In any case, a ban on human reproductive cloning is a high
priority in the effort to avert a techno-eugenic future.


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