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EDITIONS
 Saturday, 28 December, 2002, 11:51 GMT
Human cloning: History or hysteria
Dr Brigitte Boisselier of Clonaid, a company formed by the Raelians
Clonaid claims it has produced the world's first clone

If Eve is the first human not to have been conceived, she will mark the watershed between the science fiction dreams and fears of yesteryear, and the science fact that beckons in the forthcoming century.

Scientific proof is urgently needed. We will know in just over a week if the first cloned human has indeed been born.

The initial DNA tests required are relatively straightforward and, if conducted in an open and believable way, should answer the question one way or the other.

Eve, of course, will be oblivious to the debate about her genetic lineage, but even if she is not a clone, her very existence says something uncomfortable about the way science is conducted.

Risky and uncertain

Whatever she is, Eve is a little girl and an experiment - the end result of a series of risky and uncertain steps taken by a cult with strange ideas about human origins and destiny.

Since Dolly, the first mammal clone, was born in 1996, scientists have cloned cows, goats, mice, pigs and cats.

Eve... could face a shortened lifetime of suffering and premature aging

But nobody has cloned any of our nearest animal relatives, the primates. It has been tried, hundreds of times, but no one has succeeded.

So what, critics will ask, does it say about the Realian researchers' attitude to human life that they attempt to produce a baby before the technique is in any way developed or well understood?

Eve is also an experiment in the development of disease, as, if she is a clone, she could face a shortened lifetime of suffering and premature aging.

Dolly is growing old before her time, showing that when she was born she was not genetically year zero but as old as her donor.

So could newborn Eve be genetically 31 years old, the age of her donor?

Clones have gone on to develop severe medical problems. In many of them their livers, lungs and hearts have abnormalities. Is this the fate bequeathed to baby Eve?

History's view

Cloning is coming. When the technique is safe, and that will take many years yet, if at all, it will take its place as potentially the most valued and powerful technique in the arsenal of future medicine.

As well as a means of reproduction, the technology of cloning will provide new ways to replace and repair our bodies.

But the scientific truth at the moment is we do not understand what we are doing. At the moment the suffering outweighs the benefits.

So if she is a clone, what will be history's view of Eve?

It will record that what could become a revolution has been reduced to a publicity seeking race by a cult which believes humans are aliens.

History will also record sympathy and compassion for Eve because newborn Eve, innocent of all such motives, is ultimately the one who will pay their price.

  WATCH/LISTEN
  ON THIS STORY
  The BBC's Pallab Ghosh
"Most attempts at cloning lead to miscarriages and deformities at birth"
  Dr Patrick Dixon, anti-cloning campaigner
"I don't see any reason to doubt it whatsoever"
Human reproductive cloning

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See also:

25 Oct 01 | Science/Nature
09 Mar 01 | Science/Nature
15 Nov 01 | Science/Nature
06 Jul 01 | Science/Nature
28 Dec 02 | Health
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