Human-Cloning Expert Doubts Claim, Explains Issue

January 9, 2003

The human cloning controversy doubles and redoubles. Clonaid, a private cloning company founded by a religious sect, has recently claimed to have produced not one but two human clones.

Since the announcement of the birth of Dolly the sheep, the first mammalian clone, in 1997, the community of clones has extended to cats, cows, goats, mice, pigs and rabbits. But producing healthy viable clones, of any kind, presents a formidable scientific challenge.

For perspective on the cloning revolution, National Geographic Today spoke with molecular biologist Kathy Hudson, founder and director of the Johns Hopkins University Genetics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C.

Has Clonaid produced the first human clones?

I think the claims are suspect and alarming because they are not being supported by any data at all. There isn't a shred of evidence, no track record of safety or scientific expertise.

What proof is needed to support Clonaid's claim?

Test 13 genetic markers. These are the standard DNA markers used in law enforcement for paternity testing, the O.J. trial, DNA dog tags for the military and for all the DNA databases kept on criminals of violent crimes. The tests could be completed in less than a day.

If Clonaid doesn't succeed, will someone else?

I think human cloning is inevitable. There have been proposals at the United Nations to have an international ban on reproductive cloning. Barring that, we will have people attempting to clone a human.

Why is human cloning so controversial?

It's a big departure from how we have reproduced in the past—it's asexual reproduction. So there is a single parent, if you will, rather than two parents having their genetic material mixed in unique ways to create a fundamentally new individual. Instead, there is a replica of an existing individual—and that's disturbing at a gut level.

Cloning also disturbs people because it is new. We saw this same kind of reaction to in vitro fertilization—the so-called test-tube babies.

Continued on Next Page >>


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