Police warn of illegal cloning

Click to follow
The Independent Online
AN ILLEGAL trade in cloned body parts and genetically engineered children has been identified by an elite British police squad as a future market for organised crime.

The head of a new research unit at the National Criminal Intelligence Service (NCIS) also issued a warning yesterday about money laundering and illegal gambling on the Internet as well as a potential new addiction to "virtual reality drugs".

Crime groups are already becoming involved in the international sale of transplant organs, such as kidneys, said Robert Hall, the head of analysis at NCIS. "Genetic commerce also has a very lucrative potential not only for the scientists but also the unscrupulous practitioner or criminal who wishes to make easy money. At its simplest, there is the organised criminal who sells illegally acquired, genetically engineered body parts.

"At the more complex, there is the bogus agent offering gene therapy to the unwary or desperate parent, or even customising genetic changes into a newly conceived child."

Speaking yesterday at a conference on international crime held in London, Mr Hall described some of the developments that could be illegally traded in the future. "By 2020, 95 per cent of human body parts could be replaceable by laboratory-grown organs. Cloning will enable parents to select and improve the character and health of their children."

The NCIS is also investigating organised crime's role in environmental issues, such as dumping toxic waste, and the trade in endangered species.

"There is evidence that toxic dumping is very prevalent in the United States. We know it happens here, but we do not yet know the extent of the problem," Mr Hall said.