London, Jan. 5 (Reuters): A cloning firm founded by a UFO sect today defended its claim to have produced the world’s first two cloned babies and said it would not pressure the par-ents to undergo DNA tests to silence sceptics.
The Dutch branch of the Raelian movement, which believes the human race was created by aliens, said yesterday that a Dutch lesbian had given birth to a cloned baby.
That claim comes after the sect and cloning firm Clonaid said in December that a 31-year-old American had given birth to the first human clone, named Eve. No scientific evidence has been provided.
Scientists have branded the claims as a baseless publicity stunt.
In the Netherlands, where human cloning is banned, the government said it was investigating the second birth but pointed out there was no proof to support the sect’s claim.
A spokesman for the European Union’s executive said the commission was preparing a comprehensive report on cloning for the end of February that could lead to new EU legislation by year-end.
Clonaid chief executive Brigitte Boisselier told BBC television today she wanted DNA testing to happen as soon as possible but said she would not rush the parents.
“Even if we have a legal contract saying they (the parents) should do it (DNA testing)... I have no heart to push them in that direction and I prefer to say let’s wait until they are really ready to do it,” she told the BBC’s Breakfast with Frost from Canada.
The parents are wary of undergoing DNA tests since experts could be obliged by law to reveal their identity, she said.
A Florida attorney has asked a US state court to appoint a legal guardian for baby Eve. Clonaid has refused to present the child publicly, say where it is or show medical evidence of the cloning.
Boisselier would not disclose where the second baby had been born. “The parents are a lesbian couple from Holland, and from what I heard from their voices, they are very happy,” she said.
The Raelian movement’s profile has fed scepticism over their claims. The French founder of the movement, Claude Vorilhon, who calls himself Rael, defended his cult’s theory today that cloning was the first step toward attaining eternal life.
Vorilhon told the BBC he had an encounter with extraterrestrials in 1973 when he was a racecar magazine journalist. “Through DNA and genetic engineering they created our life on Earth, they created synthetic life from scratch, from dust,” he said.
In an interview with Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine, Vorilhon said he had discouraged Boisselier from presenting proof that baby Eve had been cloned because of the pending US court case.
“I have advised Boisselier to put her scientific reputation at stake rather than have the child taken from the mother. Now the child must be protected. That is more important than anything else,” he told the magazine.
In cloning, the nucleus is removed from an egg cell and replaced with a nucleus from a cell of the animal to be cloned. If this is done at just the right time and in the right way, the egg cell starts to divide as if it had been fertilised by sperm. The resulting embryo is only an exact genetic duplicate of the mother if the mother’s own egg cell was used.