- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 15, 2001


If the U.S. government bans human cloning, a scientist said his organization intends to find a country where it is legal and create cloned babies for infertile couples.

Panayiotis Michael Zavos, a Kentucky reproduction researcher and a vocal advocate for human cloning, yesterday said that his organization has been contacted by more than 3,000 infertile couples who are eager to become parents.

"People want to have a biological child of their own," Mr. Zavos said at a meeting of the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals. Mr. Zavos heads a Lexington, Ky., organization called the Andrology Institute of America, which provides fertility services.

Proposed federal legislation that would ban all forms of human cloning would cripple research in America and force researchers to find countries where such studies are legal, Mr. Zavos said.

"We don't say we need America," Mr. Zavos said. "The world is wide open to all of us." He said cloning is not illegal in 170 countries and his organization intends "to do it in a legal country where there are conditions that permit it."

Mr. Zavos would not say where his organization is doing its research.

He said that so far the experiments have involved only animals, but the group is moving steadily toward an eventual attempt to clone humans.

The remarks from Mr. Zavos came during a debate with Dr. Paul R. Billings, a University of California professor and a specialist in clinical genetics, who bluntly rejected any plans to clone humans.

Doctors who attempt to clone human beings, Dr. Billings said, "should be treated as what they are criminals."

Dr. Billings said that experience with cloning of animals shows that cloning is "unsafe and risky" because many of the young are born with deformities or die shortly before or after birth.

He said that even Dolly, the famous sheep that was the first mammal to be cloned, suffered from obesity and brain abnormalities.

"Cloning has not been accomplished in any primate," said Dr. Billings. "In species where it has taken place, there were a lot of abnormalities."

Mr. Zavos said that the problems experienced in animal cloning are "species-specific" and must be evaluated on a scientific level, not on a political or moral basis.

"Animals are animals," he said. "If we want to know what would happen with humans, we need to do it in humans."

Mr. Zavos said his organization would not attempt to clone humans "until we are confident we can do it safely."

He said his organization has had an animal-cloning success rate of more than 30 percent. Mr. Zavos said that is about the success rate now experienced in reproduction clinics where special techniques are used to help infertile couples have children.

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