Cult Defends 'Clone' Birth; No Rush for DNA Tests

A cloning firm founded by a UFO cult defended Sunday its claim to have produced the world's first two cloned babies and said it would not pressure the parents to undergo DNA tests to silence skeptics.

The Dutch branch of the Raelian movement, which believes the human race was created by aliens, said Saturday 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.

Clonaid Chief Executive Brigitte Boisselier told BBC television Sunday she wanted DNA testing to happen as soon as possible but said she would not rush the parents. She acknowledged the public would remain incredulous even with DNA.

In the meantime, another three cloned babies should be born by late January or early February after five out of 10 embryo implantations proved successful, Boisselier said.

"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," Boisselier 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 U.S. state court to appoint a legal guardian for 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 skepticism over their claims. The French founder of the movement, Claude Vorilhon, who calls himself Rael, defended his cult's theory Sunday that cloning was the first step toward attaining eternal life.

Vorilhon told the BBC he had an encounter with extra-terrestrials 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.

Cattle, mice, sheep and other animals have been cloned with mixed success. Some developed defects later and critics of human cloning say it is unethical to subject a baby to these dangers.

In cloning, the nucleus is removed from an egg cell and replaced with a nucleus from a cell of the animal to be cloned. It this is done at just the right time and in the right way, the egg cell starts to divide as if it had been fertilized by sperm. The resulting embryo is only an exact genetic duplicate of the mother if the mother's own egg cell was used.

Clonaid says it has a list of 2,000 people willing to pay $200,000 to have themselves or a loved one cloned.

Boisselier said it would take years for people to accept their claims.

"When a new technology arrives we have disgust first, the 'yuk' effect, then fear, then doubts, then you slowly accept. Probably in five years from now people will say, well this is okay," she said.