Washington -- An obscure religious group said Friday that it would move its efforts to clone a human being offshore after the Food and Drug Administration paid a surprise visit to its laboratory and warned that cloning could not be done without agency permission.
Brigitte Boisselier, who leads the Raelian Movement's cloning project, said FDA officials discovered the secret location of the lab and made an inspection in mid-April. She said that technicians there were working with biological material from cows, which is legal.
"They couldn't find a human egg, and so they couldn't shut us down," Boisselier said. "In fact, the lab is still running here in the U.S., and we are still doing things that are legal."
FDA spokesman Lawrence Bachorik said Boisselier had signed an agreement "not to attempt cloning in the United States and not to do research using human eggs in the United States until the legality of human cloning is ascertained" by Congress or federal courts.
Human cloning is barred in several states, and Congress is now deciding whether to make it a federal crime.
The Raelian cloning effort received wide attention in March, when Boisselier discussed it at a congressional hearing. She told lawmakers that the group had established a laboratory, hired staff and intended to work toward cloning a boy who had died of a heart defect at the age of 10 months. Boisselier said the group may go to federal court to challenge the FDA's jurisdiction over cloning, said Boisselier, a chemist.
Neither Boisselier nor the FDA would give the location of the laboratory. Boisselier said five people are working there. Raelians are led by the Frenchman Claude Vorilhon, who took the name Rael after claiming that he witnessed a UFO landing in 1973.