Claims made by the company Clonaid that it had produced five cloned babies in the early part of this year were part of a media hoax, say two Canadian journalists. Working for the Montreal Gazette, the reporters went 'undercover' to infiltrate the Raelians, a sect linked to Clonaid. One of the journalists posed as a volunteer willing to provide Clonaid with her eggs for research or to bear a cloned human baby.
Clonaid claimed in December 2002 that the first cloned baby - a girl named Eve - had been born to an American woman. Over the following month, it claimed four more births: in the Netherlands, Japan, Saudi Arabia and the US. It also claimed that many more women were pregnant with clones. Despite the widespread media interest, Clonaid has never produced proof of the existence of these cloned children, although in March 2003 it released a photograph of what it claimed to be the third cloned baby born. The picture showed a baby in an incubator, but Clonaid offered no evidence that the baby in the photograph was actually a clone.
The journalists describe members of the Raelian sect, including Clonaid president Brigitte Boisselier, 'mocking' the media coverage of the cloned babies announcements. According to their report, Boisselier also laughed about the media while addressing Raelian supporters at a public rally in July. She is reported as saying 'Come, my good journalist friends, ask me if we did all that to have free publicity. Yes!' The journalists' report also quotes her as saying 'I amused myself playing with the journalists'; in reference to her handling of press conferences after the clone claims were made. In addition, the report says that Rael, the head of the sect, has also made statements that suggest the claims were false. He allegedly said that it would be marvellous if they had made the claims just for the publicity. 'Then we would be publicity geniuses', he added.
Two days after the report was published, the Raelian Movement issued a press notice in which it claimed that the allegations made had been 'slanderous and untrue'. It also states that 'His Holiness Rael...still believes that Dr Boisselier's claims are true and will be confirmed, and that the babies cloned by Dr Boisselier do actually exist'. Meanwhile, the United Nations has received a request from a coalition of scientists, doctors and lawyers to ask for an advisory opinion from the World Court declaring human reproductive cloning to be a 'crime against humanity'. The group is led by Florida lawyer Bernard Siegel who initiated legal action against Clonaid when the clone claims were originally made. Now, in the wake of the recent collapse of talks towards a UN treaty on cloning, his group has approached the World Court as 'the ultimate authority on international law'. 'An opinion from the court would bring a very strong legal force against the would-be cloners', added Siegel.