Valcourt (Quebec), Dec. 30: The claim by the Raelian cult that it helped to produce the world’s first human clone, a baby called Eve, has brought the organisation under investigation by the US government.
“We are going to probe the circumstances surrounding this alleged cloning. And we’ve started steps to look into that,” said Brad Stone, a spokesman for the US Food and Drug Administration.
He said that although the sect had claimed to have cloned the child outside America, the FDA would still look into it.
“We want to check and see first, whether the cloning did take place, and second if it violated any of our laws,” Stone said.
Although human cloning is not illegal in America, any kind of human trials would have had to have obtained FDA approval as of 1998, Stone said.
“We inspected some facilities that [the Raelian sect] had in West Virginia in 2001 and had discussions with them which resulted in an agreement by them to not to conduct any of their cloning research within the US,” he added.
The claim by the Raelians was made on Friday in Hollywood, Florida, by Brigitte Boisselier, a French chemist and chief executive of Clonaid, which she said had helped to produce the 7 pound baby.
The company was founded in 1997 by Claude Vorilhon, a former French motor racing journalist who claims that he was once abducted by extra-terrestrial beings who told him the human race had been created by creatures from outer space 25,000 years go.
The Raelian theme park and “museum”, UFOland, in Valcourt, Quebec, the nearest thing the Raelians have to a headquarters, was closed for the winter yesterday. A model flying saucer could be seen from the road.
The Raelian cult is not popular in Quebec, the place where it was born.
School boards have tried to bar its members from entering schools and Roman Catholic bishops charge that the cult spreads hatred, although the Raelian Church of Canada is recognised as an official religion in Quebec. UFOland had a visit last month from an angry local resident who drove a pick-up truck through the park’s fence.
World leaders and religious figures joined ranks with scientists at the weekend to pour scorn on claims by a company set up by an obscure cult that it had produced the first clone of a human being.
Besides almost universal condemnation across the globe on ethical grounds, many experts doubted whether the world’s first cloned baby had been born at all as the cult had given no proof.
The White House said US President George W. Bush was “deeply troubled” by the human cloning issue, while French President Jacques Chirac called on all governments to outlaw the practice and punish anyone attempting to create a clone.
The Vatican, noting no evidence of the cloning had emerged, said, nevertheless, it was an expression of a brutal mentality which lacked all ethical and human consideration.