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FDA Raids Raelian Cloning Lab

Aired June 29, 2001 - 16:04   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
STEPHEN FRAZIER, CNN ANCHOR: There are some developing news happening now on a human cloning experiment, and a possible effort by the federal government to stop the experiment. This is news just coming in now, and for more on it, we are joined by CNN medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen.

Elizabeth, what can you tell us?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Steve, what we've learned is that the Food and Drug Administration is trying to crack down on cloning. What they've done is they actually went into a lab, that was supposed to be a secret lab, where cloning experiments were going on. And they told Brigitte Boisselier, who's the chief scientist for this lab, that she needed to stop doing those kinds of experiments. And the group is called the Raelians. They're a very controversial group. They call themselves a religion. And she said that even though she thinks she's in the right and she could go to court and win, what she's going to do is move the cloning aspects of the lab to another country.

FRAZIER: Let's back up and first talk about the fact the FDA is doing this. Elizabeth, in your knowledge, have they moved into to regulate any kind reproductive human process?

COHEN: Well, there hasn't really been any cloning experiments for them to move in on. If you go back to Dolly, what happened after that was a gentleman by the name of Richard Seed then went and tried to do cloning, but he doesn't seem to have gotten as far as this group called the Raelians. In fact, the Raelians told us earlier this year that they thought they could have a pregnancy as early as April, meaning two months ago. We don't know if they were successful or not.

So the FDA didn't really have much to go and disrupt before. But they found this lab that was supposed to be in a secret location. And "U.S. News & World Report" is going to announce in their upcoming issue that in fact, the federal grand jury in Syracuse, New York, had subpoenaed phone records from Brigitte Boisselier's home.

FRAZIER: Now, Elizabeth, although the location of this lab is secret, their intentions never have been. They have said for a long time that they were trying to reproduce an infant who died, and that they had many members of the Raelians who were stepping forward as surrogate mothers who would carry the clone, the cloned embryo. Is that right?

COHEN: Absolutely. They've been very open because, unlike most of the world, they think cloning is a great thing and they don't see anything wrong with it. They said that they want to prove that the science is safe. And so they have this family that apparently has quite a bit of money -- this family lost a child when it was just a baby -- and so they obtained some DNA material from the child before he was buried and they are planning on making a clone.

They called it a -- the Raelians called it a delayed twin. They don't even always call it a clone, and they think that this is a very safe, very normal thing that ought to happen since the science does exist.

FRAZIER: One final quick question, Elizabeth, almost a one-word answer. Do we know -- is there somebody walking around now carrying a cloned embryo?

COHEN: You know, it could be. They told us back in March that as early as April, in other words, just one month later, that they felt ready to start a pregnancy. And they said they had 50 women who had volunteered to be the surrogate to this clone. What you do when you clone is you take an embryo and you insert it -- put it into a woman's womb, and she then carries it just as the surrogate. We have no way of knowing if someone's walking around. They could be but they also might not be.

FRAZIER: Medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen. Elizabeth, thank you for joining us this afternoon.

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