CNN BREAKING NEWS
Raelians Claim Second Cloned Baby Born
Aired January 4, 2003 - 10:56 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: The controversial Las Vegas- based group Clonaid claims that the world's second cloned human baby has now been born, and on Friday, this according to that group, Clonaid. This comes, of course, one week after the group claimed but still has not proven that its first baby -- human clone baby was born. That baby, by the name of Eve.
We have on the telephone with us the leader of the Raelian movement from the Netherlands, Bart Overvliet. Mr. Overvliet, if you could A, explain why we still don't have any confirmation of the first baby born, named Eve, and now you're claiming that a second has been born?
BART OVERVLIET, RAELIAN MOVEMENT, NETHERLANDS: Yes, that's true. It's been born last night in Holland.
WHITFIELD: OK. Why should anyone believe that a second baby has been born when there still is no evidence that the first one has been born?
OVERVLIET: Well, it is announced by Clonaid, and I should think it is -- it must be true, or else why would they announce such a thing?
WHITFIELD: Well, what is the explanation? What are the circumstances of this second alleged birth?
OVERVLIET: What is that? What? Sorry?
WHITFIELD: What are the circumstances of this second alleged birth? What can you tell us about this alleged birth that has taken place yesterday?
OVERVLIET: That the baby is healthy, and the mother is all right, everything is all right. It was a normal birth at home or in the clinic. So it was -- everything was normal.
WHITFIELD: And the claim is that the baby was born to a lesbian woman of -- who was Danish, is that correct?
OVERVLIET: It's a lesbian Dutch woman, yes.
WHITFIELD: OK. And what more can you tell us about the conception or how the process was played out, how the birth took place?
OVERVLIET: I don't know any details about that.
WHITFIELD: And why still have there not been any independent lab tests that have taken place involving the first alleged birth?
OVERVLIET: Can you repeat, please?
WHITFIELD: Why have there still not been any independent lab DNA tests of the first alleged cloned baby?
OVERVLIET: I think that has already been in the news, because the parents didn't want it. Because of privacy reasons.
WHITFIELD: And they changed their mind, because initially, it was made very clear by your chemist that the parents did agree to the lab samples being taken?
OVERVLIET: No, they were doubting to do it and then Rael decided that we canceled the tests.
WHITFIELD: And why are they now doubting the tests? Is it they are doubting any independent labs, or do they question the safety of the measures that would be taken? Can you explain that?
OVERVLIET: Yes, the safety and the whole media, all of the media that comes to them.
WHITFIELD: But still no one knows who they are, correct?
OVERVLIET: No, nobody knows who they are.
WHITFIELD: All right. So you're saying that the initial couple that birthed your first alleged cloned baby still has yet to agree to any sort of independent lab tests that may, indeed, not take place, you're saying now, correct?
OVERVLIET: Well, I don't know any details. You have to take contact with Clonaid, they know.
WHITFIELD: OK. And now your group is claiming that a second cloned baby has been born yesterday?
OVERVLIET: Yes. That's true.
WHITFIELD: And will there be any tests to confirm to the rest of the world,, to the skeptical scientific mainstream community, that this, indeed, is a cloned baby and healthy?
OVERVLIET: I can't confirm that there will be a test in this case. It is up to the parents to allow that.
WHITFIELD: OK. Bart Overvliet of the Raelian movement, calling us from the Netherlands, thank you very much for your information.
We're going to take a short break right now and -- never mind that break.
We're going to bring in the dean of the University of the Wisconsin Law School, a bioethicist, Alta Charo.
Ms Charo, you and I have spoken before, you doubting the first alleged birth. What are your feelings now about this second announcement?
All right. It looks like we lost that conversation. And we'll try to reestablish our communication.
WHITFIELD: This breaking story we're following for you. First, the controversial group called Clonaid, claimed the day after Christmas that the world's first cloned baby was born. Baby Eve is what they named the child, born to a 31-year-old North American woman.
Now the group is claiming that the world's second cloned baby has been born, born on Friday, and they claim that they are responsible.
But still, offering no proof that either baby was, indeed, the product of cloning or that they are healthy or the identities of the parents.
We want to bring on the telephone with us Alta Charo, who is the dean of the University of Wisconsin Law School, a bioethicist.
And Ms. Charo, we already heard from Bart Overvliet, who is the -- one of the leaders of the Raelian Movement from the Netherlands, who said that, once again, this group claims that it is responsible for now the second world's human baby born just yesterday but still will not offer any proof.
Your feelings on that announcement?
ALTA CHARO, BIOETHICIST, UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN: I think that the announcement speaks for itself. In the absence of proof, there is no cloned baby. Good science is not done this way. Media circus is.
WHITFIELD: What troubles you about the group's announcement, A, and that they continue not to show proof? And now they are claiming that the parents of the first alleged cloned baby are not in agreement to any sort of independent lab tests?
CHARO: Well, what troubles me is that they're continuing to achieve tremendous media coverage in the absence of any real news, that is, any real proof that anything remarkable has happened.
What troubles me even more is that public policy may be made on the basis of these unsupported and rather outlandish claims.
We've already seen members of Congress moved to write editorials in the "USA Today" or make statements to the press they plan to press forward with legislation that goes way beyond anything we need with regard to reproductive cloning and move toward banning important medical research that uses some of the same techniques with no reproductive outcome.
WHITFIELD: Yes. In other words, this might create a new obstacle in any advancements of stem cell research?
CHARO: Precisely. We're seeing a situation in which outlandish claims by outlandish people are driving public policy in a direction that is not constructive. But it may really hurt patients today and patients tomorrow. I think that's the really tragic story here.
WHITFIELD: At this juncture, this -- the initial couple, as explained by the leader of the Raelian Movement just moments ago on the telephone, initially the couple said that they would be in agreement to any sort of independent lab tests. Now they're back pedaling on that.
What would be involved in such independent lab tests, if indeed they were to proceed?
CHARO: You would need to have somebody of impeccable reputation and good qualifications personally obtain tissue samples from both the purported mother and purported cloned child and to then do forensic DNA testing on both samples in order to demonstrate the identity -- the similarity of the two samples and show that they are absolutely identical.
WHITFIELD: Now, this group, the Raelian movement, and the splinter group of Clonaid, the scientific arm of the Raelian movement, claims that in addition to now these two claimed human babies that have been born, that there may be at least three others that might be born in the month of January. And these announcements being made on the day of the initial announcement of the first alleged cloned baby.
How concerned are you that this group continues to get the attention that it is, even though they are unable to offer proof?
CHARO: As I said before, I'm very concerned, because I think that cloning is an important topic when one looks at the legislative agenda here, an agenda to shut down embryo research, all or some types of embryo research, under the cover of saying it's necessary in order to protect us against reproductive applications of cloning that are unsafe and unwise.
And with the continued coverage of their claims, unproven as they are, we continue to stoke that fire for this kind of legislation, which goes far beyond anything we need.
If Congress really wants to act, if people really want to respond to these claims, real or otherwise, the responsible thing to do is to propose legislation that focuses on reproductive cloning, that is, cloning that involves taking an embryo, putting it in a woman's body for development. Separately consider the issue of embryo research.
Unfortunately, with the continued coverage, I fear that we're not going to get that kind of sensible debate in Congress, and instead we'll have a debate that is characterized by hysteria and overstatement.
WHITFIELD: All right. Alta Charo of the University of Wisconsin, thank you very much for joining us again. Now on the telephone with us, also from an advanced cell technology, Dr. Robert Lanza.
Dr. Lanza, perhaps you can explain to us what would keep either of these alleged couples who the group Clonaid claims are responsible for the two now-alleged human cloned babies, what would keep them from agreeing to any sort of independent lab tests?
DR. ROBERT LANZA, ADVANCED CELL TECHNOLOGY: I don't see anything that would prevent that. I mean, they could remain entirely anonymous and the blood tests could be done. So that just doesn't wash.
I'm just very concerned that they seem to have absolutely no dignity. Not only have they done damage to an important area of medical and scientific research, but now they're exploiting the gay and lesbian community.
Don't they have any ethics or scruples left?
WHITFIELD: And the claim, the latest claim being that, according to the leader of the Raelian Movement, who we had on the telephone, that the mother of this latest birthing is a Dutch lesbian woman.
LANZA: Yes, again, you know, I think that this display is a complete lack of ethics here, to be exploiting a vulnerable community such as the gay and lesbian community for commercial purposes is just unacceptable.
WHITFIELD: This group, Clonaid, when it made its initial announcement about the day after Christmas, said that this technique is going to open the door for so many families who would be unable to conceive, unable to birth a child. And this is the result or the answer, they say, is cloning babies. This is the answer for those couples.
LANZA: Well, I mean, that sounds like a noble cause. But the truth of the matter here is the technology is entirely unsafe.
It's very much like sending the mom and the baby up in a rocket, knowing there's a 20 or 30 percent chance it's going to blow up. You simply don't do that.
WHITFIELD: You're concerned now that this group is announcing at least three other babies will be born as a result of the same or the similar technique that they alleged to have used in these two alleged births?
LANZA: So what is your question?
WHITFIELD: Your concerns are now that they continue to say that...
WHITFIELD: ... they have at least three other babies that are likely to be born and born healthy, they allege? LANZA: And you know, again, this goes contrary to the scientific experience, you know, from all of our animal data.
I think that at this point, the fact they're not allowing the DNA testing to take place reveals a complete lack of credibility on their part. And it only makes sense, if you think about it, why would they subject these babies to testing if it's going to reveal that this is a complete hoax?
WHITFIELD: All right. Dr. Robert Lanza of Advanced Cell Technology, thank you very much for joining us.
We're going to continue to follow this story for you here on CNN.
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