(SCMP, December 28, 2002) Examining the debate surrounding cloning is a little like staring at a multi-faceted diamond; the longer you study it, the more angles you see. The claim yesterday by a group linked to a religious cult that a baby has been born to an American woman through cloning throws up further questions, but few answers. Who will bear moral responsibility if the baby, a girl, develops the health problems that some scientists believe she may have a greater chance of developing? Is she the daughter of her mother - the source of the cells from which she is cloned - or an identical twin? What measures are being taken to ensure the girl lives a normal life, rather than that of a circus freak? In later years, could this cloned human safely reproduce with a fellow clone? All these questions sit, of course, on top of a heap of moral, ethical and scientific queries that have been swirling about the advance of cloning for several years. That few have been effectively dealt with despite the march of medical science, shows how dangerously overdue and difficult the debate has become. Whether the Raelian movement is telling the truth or not, their claim is a reminder that nations large and small must address the issue urgently. Several have already outlawed human cloning research, but the US is not yet one of them. It may be that an international body is required to pool known information about cloning and to monitor - or even police - cloning activities. Medical science is still locked in its own debates over the supposed benefits and the risks. High rates of birth defects have been registered in cloned sheep and mice - problems impossible to detect at an early stage. Dolly the Sheep, the first mammal to be cloned, is showing signs of premature ageing. If societies decide that cloning is taking too far humanity's ability to manipulate its gene pool, then a host of fresh challenges are posed. How can cloning be effectively controlled internationally? What enforcement action can be taken against offenders of any new laws? For some, the source of the latest claims will be proof enough that something must be done to move the issue from the scientific fringes. The Raelians follow a self-proclaimed French prophet, Claude Vorilhon, who believes that cloning is the route to eternal life. Calling himself Rael, he claims that life on Earth was established by aliens who arrived from outer space to create humans by cloning. Clonaid, a society linked to the Raelians, has been racing against Italian fertility specialist Severino Antinori to produce the first cloned human baby. It is a race that society and governments must reclaim as their own in the name of responsible scientific progress. Glossary throw up (phrasal v) to introduce problems or ideas for discussion freak (n) someone who is physically abnormal in some way. Note that the word can be offensive overdue (adj) something that should have already happened, but is late pool (v) to bring people together who can be used as a resource lock (v) to become engaged and stuck in an unresolved struggle manipulate (v) to manage and control something for one's own benefit or purpose Example: Hitler manipulated the democratic process to seize power. (SCMP, December 27, 2002) Discussion points - Should human cloning be banned under all circumstances? Give reasons. Or is it acceptable if certain conditions are fulfilled? If yes, what are these criteria? Who should have the authority to decide? - Will outlawing human cloning internationally resolve the problem? What are the difficulties in enforcing new laws?