Search is on: where will first human be cloned?
Last week a controversial Italian fertility doctor said he is ready to start cloning babies for infertile couples and already has a list of 600 couples who want to participate in his program. It was the most startling announcement to date, and met with well-deserved condemnation.
But that may not stop it from happening. According to the BBC, the doctor, Severino Antinori, "claims he has the support and backing of an unnamed Mediterranean country for his research program, which he says could begin in October [our italics]."
And so the race is on. What country will it be?
At the moment the main contender is Italy. That's for a simple reason: it's where Antinori works. We think it will be a surprise. We think it may be an island or a third-world country. The profile would be lower, there would be far less of a hue and outcry, and the technology could be imported.
More advanced countries like Spain, Italy, and Greece already have laws against human cloning or movements afoot to ban it. According to Christ Straub, executive director of the Culture of Life Foundation, "it will probably not be in the European Community, because the European Commission has put down some rules" -- which covers nearly every West European nation except Switzerland.
That opens the possibility that a nation at the southern side of the Mediterranean -- including Israel -- might allow the cloners in. It could also be a East European nation, or a nation in the Caribbean -- with the exception of nations like Martinique and Guadeloupe, which belong to the European Community.
According to Brian Clowes, a researcher for Human Life International, Israel is a candidate even though a fertility expert there, Neri Laufner at Hadassah-University Hospital, insisted last weekend that legislation has been passed creating a five-year moratorium on cloning babies for procreation in the Holy Land. Warns Clowes: "That's never stopped these guys before. They've had this advanced technology for years. This is the kind of thing that would be done secretly. They know a lot of controversy is going to be attracted to it, so they're going to do this kind of thing secretly and then when it's a fait accompli, when it's done, then they're going to present it to the world because what could people say? Cyprus is another possibility," adds Clowes -- although it too has denied that it has invited Professor Antinori to establish a cloning clinic.
As for Asia (where, it is rumored, others are heading to clone), Clowes maintains that the People's Republic of China would be the leading candidate. "They're certainly involved in some kind of skullduggery over there because the rank-and-file Chinese have respect for the laws of God and man but the leadership does not. They do all kinds of crazy stuff over there."
The race is on. Human embryos -- the very first stage of cloning -- have already been cloned in Australia and the United States, where one group, a cult, has announced its intentions to clone a girl in Nevada.
The race is on and only prayer will stop it.
"It could be anyplace outside of the U.S. and European Community," warns Straub. "And I would never discount the U.K., because the policy of the U.K. government is very generous towards pressing science to the outer limits. It could be anywhere. It's a needle in a haystack."
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