U.S. cracks down on cult’s secret cloning laboratory


WASHINGTON, AFP

U.S. federal investigators have uncovered a secret laboratory where members of a religious sect were experimenting with human cloning, according to media reports Saturday.

A grand jury in Syracuse, New York, subpoenaed telephone records and other documents as part of an investigation into a lab run by members of the Raelian sect, which believes scientists from another planet created all life on Earth, according to a U.S. News and World Reports article.

The Raelian chief scientist, French national Brigitte Boisselier, along with Italian gynecologist Severino Antinori and U.S. doctor Richard Seed lead an international consortium that has announced plans to clone a human being.

Clonaid, a company with links to the Raelians, seeks to reproduce by cloning a 10-month-old baby that died during heart surgery, at the request of the baby’s U.S. parents.

“I haven’t done anything that is illegal and I will never do,” Boisselier, a bishop of the sect told CNN Saturday.

She said she was prepared to carry on her experiments outside the United States.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned her in a hand-delivered letter in late March that the lab may have been violating FDA regulations, after Boisselier claimed that her facility was mere weeks away from being ready to clone a human being, U.S. News wrote.

Panayiotis Zavos, a fertility expert from Lexington, Kentucky, was warned off in a similar letter from the FDA, the magazine said.

And the consortium’s Richard Seed, a Chicago physicist, said FDA investigators had visited him. “I think their purpose was to frighten me, and they did,” Seed told U.S. News.

Human cloning is forbidden in all but four of the 50 U.S. states although no federal law exists barring private financing of such research.

The administration of U.S. President George W. Bush indicated earlier this month, however, it was backing a bill before Congress banning any form of human cloning, including “therapeutic cloning” used in embryonic stem cell research.

A congressional testimony 10 days ago marked the first time the new Republican administration has made its position on the controversial topic clearly known.

In 1997 the administration of former president Bill Clinton declared a five-year moratorium on experiments in human cloning funded with public money.