The Cloning Debate
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BRIGITTE BOISSELIER, CEO, Clonaid: I am very, very pleased to announce that the first baby clone is born. She was born yesterday at 11:55 AM.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: In an announcement that surprised many and was greeted with much skepticism, members of a religious sect called the Raelians claimed today they had produced the first cloned human.
While few details or evidence were provided, they said the seven-pound baby girl was cloned from the DNA of a 31-year-old American woman, and that the embryo was then implanted in her womb and allowed to grow to term. Her husband was reportedly infertile. Brigitte Boisselier is CEO of a company called Clonaid, which has ties to the Raelian sect.
BRIGITTE BOISSELIER: The baby is very healthy. She’s fine. She’s doing fine. The parents are happy. And I hope that you remember them when you talk about this baby, not like a monster, like some results of something that is disgusting. She is a very healthy baby.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Dolly the sheep was the first animal to be cloned in 1997. That was followed by cloning of several other species. Since then, scientists and ethicists have worried humans would be next.
In the last year alone, three groups have claimed they would be the first to clone a human baby. That included an Italian scientist, an embryology specialist from Kentucky, and Boisselier’s group, the Raelians.
All three groups have stirred controversy, but the Raelians are considered the most extreme. Founded by a man who describes himself as Rael, they believe aliens created all life on the planet. At a news conference in Florida today, Boisselier said she expected to provide proof of the cloning within days. Michael Guillen, a former science editor at ABC news, said he was willing to examine that evidence.
MICHAEL GUILLEN, Former Science Editor, ABC News: For the record, I know as little and as much as you do about the baby and child that Dr. Boisselier has just announced. But Dr. Bosselier has invited me to put her claim to the test, and I have accepted on behalf of the world’s press, on two conditions: That the invitation be given with no strings attached whatsoever; and number two, that the tests be conducted by a group of independent world-class experts.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Most in the world of science and medicine have been highly skeptical that the Raelians are capable of producing a clone in the first place. But the concept for doing so has been discussed since the birth of Dolly.
BRIGITTE BOISSELIER: The process, the technique that we have been using is very close to the one that has been described for Dolly, the sheep, but adapted to human cells. It’s been… I don’t know if it’s… some people would say it’s luck but I would say it’s hard work.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: In theory, DNA would be taken from a normal body cell and then inserted into the nucleus of a human egg whose genetic material was removed. The egg would then reprogram the newly added genes to begin the process of developing a human embryo. The baby that resulted would be, in effect, a later-born identical twin of the human who was cloned.
But the process may have led to some complications in animals. Dolly, for example, has developed arthritis at an early age. Those types of complications make many scientists nervous. Dr. David Cohen is a reproductive specialist at the University of Chicago.
DR. DAVID COHEN: In animals, we know that only about 1 to 5 percent of those animals cloned even live to adulthood. That’s a very frightening statistic if you’re going to start doing this on humans.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Leon Kass chairs the White House council on bioethics. Today he reiterated the council’s opposition to human cloning.
LEON KASS, Chairman, President’s Council on Bioethics: The President’s Council on Bioethics is unanimous in its view that creation of a cloned child would be unethical and ought to be outlawed. This is not only unsafe at this present time for these children, but it is an unethical experiment on the unborn. It threatens their identity and individuality, it begins to cross a line between procreation and manufacture, and it starts us down the direction towards designing our children, none of which should we want to do.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: For her part, Boisselier defended the practice and said her company would keep trying. She claims four more cloned babies are expected by next summer, including one possibly next week. 20 more cloning attempts will be tried next month.
BRIGITTE BOISSELIER: I have received a lot of support of parents to be, individuals or couples who would like to have a baby, who said, “Despite what the press say, despite what the government, we will have a baby, and thanks to you, you’re giving us hope.”
REPORTER: How do you respond to people who think you are taking the creation of life into your own hands, playing God?
BRIGITTE BOISSELIER: Well, first of all, when you say that scientists are considering me like as a renegade, they do that when they talk to you, when they’re in front of microphone and camera, because it’s difficult to say in public, “Well, what’s the problem with cloning? It’s only another technology, right?” But they say that to me. And so you could probably, without microphone and without camera, have different comments.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Today’s announcement is expected to give new momentum on Capitol Hill to legislative efforts to ban all cloning, either for reproductive efforts or for stem cell creation. The Food and Drug Administration said today it would probe whether Clonaid violated any U.S. laws.