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Tuesday, March 30, 1999 Published at 09:55 GMT 10:55 UK


Cloning race is on - Seed

Many scientists doubt Seed can deliver

Several laboratories are now engaged in a race to clone a human being, controversial scientist Dr Richard Seed said on Tuesday.

Dr Seed, who is in London for a conference on reproductive ethics, predicted the first clone would be announced within two years.

Dr Richard Seed: There is a race to clone a human
"I know of one other clinic that is racing to produce the first human clone and I suspect there are two or three others," he told the BBC. "I don't want to name any of them."

Dr Seed sparked international outrage in 1998 when he announced his intention to make a copy of himself. He has now said that his wife Gloria will be the first subject to be cloned - and she will also bear the child.

He said he and his wife were prepared to carry the risks that would be associated with such a novel procedure.

Technical risks

"It hasn't been done before so, for the first one, there is always going to be some technical risk. It can be reduced, in my opinion, to less than one in ten thousand by using modern medical genetic techniques."

Harvard-educated Seed, who has a PhD in nuclear physics and expertise in infertility treatment, believes that cloning is a legitimate solution for couples who have reproductive problems.

He said cloning should also be accepted because of the intellectual challenge it represented.

"It will launch an entirely new field of research into life processes. This challenge is absolutely irresistible and this will result in the understanding of life," he said.

"The understanding of life is the intellectual challenge of the third millennium."

Cloning ban

Many nations around the world already have legislation to outlaw reproductive cloning. However, many scientists believe the technology will find a use, most probably in transplant medicine.

Two UK advisory bodies have urged the government to allow the cloning of early-stage human embryos for research. Allied to other emerging cell technologies, they said it might be possible to use this limited form of cloning to grow replacement tissue in laboratories.

Dr Richard Seed: Cloning represents a great intellectual challenge
This would overcome many of the problems of rejection which currently bedevil transplant surgery.

But Dr Seed has attacked this approach. "What is more ethical?" he asked recently. "To clone a human being to allow it to grow to full adulthood or to clone a human being in order to harvest its organs."

Science and philosophy

His views on cloning have been sought for a conference on the subject at the Royal Society.

Being Human - the science and philosophy of cloning has been organised by CORE (Comment on Reproductive Ethics).

Other speakers will include Baroness O'Neill from the UK Government's Human Genetics Advisory Commission (HGAC) and embryologist Dr Anne McLaren who sits on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA).

It was the HGAC and the HFEA that recommended therapeutic cloning to the UK Government as an acceptable use of the technology on humans.

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Internet Links

Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA)

Human Genetics Advisory Commission (HGAC)

Society, Religion and Technology Project, Church of Scotland

Cloning: New Scientist

Royal Society

Comment on Reproductive Ethics

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