'We've cloned a human being'

The Express/July 27, 2002

A bizarre religious cult has implanted a woman with the first cloned human being, it was claimed yesterday.

The wealthy Raelian movement, which believes life on earth was created by aliens, said it was part of a plan to let human beings live forever.

If the child lives it will be a perfect genetic replica of the person who provided the DNA to create the embryo.

For the first time in billions of years of human history, a child will be born with just one genetic parent instead of two.

Raelian spokesman Kwak Gi-hwa refused to identify the woman. "The surrogate mother, who arrived in South Korea a month ago, came with an embryo which had been implanted into her womb, " he said. The cult's scientific arm Clonaid refused to give any more details. But project head Brigitte Boiselleir, described as a Raelian bishop, said: "Maybe one of our collaborators was too eager to disclose things."

The announcement sent panic through South Korea, where human cloning is not yet outlawed, as it is in the UK and US.

Renegade Italian scientist Severino Antinori made a similar claim last April but proof has yet to emerge. Reputable researchers said they were appalled by the Raelians' claims.

Dr Harry Griffin, assistant director of science at Edinburgh's Roslin Institute - famous for cloning Dolly the sheep - said: "People have already managed to clone sheep, cattle, mice, goats, rabbit and pigs. It's theoretically possible that a woman could be pregnant with a cloned embryo. But it would be wholly irresponsible.

"The worst scenario would be that a baby would be born with serious genetic defects and only live a few days."

A spokesman for the British Medical Association said last night: "There are major safety issues. It took hundreds of embryos to create Dolly the sheep and it would not be acceptable to experiment on humans in this way."

The UN and World Health Organisation have said they regard cloning as an affront to human dignity.

The Raelian cult was set up by former racing driver Claude Rael in 1973.

Frenchman Rael, 58, claims he was abducted by 4ft tall aliens called Elohim who asked him to prepare a terrestrial embassy for them.

He claims the human race was created by the Elohim about 25,000 years ago.

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