SOC/BIO: Italian action against cloned bull
Sat, 25 Sep 1999 18:41:58 EDT

>From Nando Media,,2107,500037918-500061418-500064653-0,0 0.html
Italy 'arrests,' denounces cloned bull
Copyright 1999 Nando Media
Copyright 1999 Associated Press

>From Time to Time: Nando's in-depth look at the 20th century


ROME (September 25, 1999 5:37 p.m. EDT - Poor Galileo. Merely a youngster, he's under arrest - locked in a stall and accused of being a freak.

The young bovine's crime? He's a clone.

Galileo, billed as Italy's first cloned bull, was unveiled Thursday at a dairy cattle show in Cremona. The backlash was swift from a government that forbids cloning.

"A monster!" proclaimed a prominent Green senator, Maurizio Pieroni.

The next day, the Health Ministry confiscated Galileo pending an investigation into his creation. They also nabbed his dad, a famous bull named Zoldo.

Galileo was born at a laboratory in Cremona under the guidance of Italian veterinarian Cesare Galli, who worked with the Scottish scientist who created Dolly the sheep in 1997.

But Dolly, the world's first mammal cloned from an adult cell, was a worldwide sensation and has lived a life of pampered ease. Galileo, by contrast, is being treated "like a dangerous terrorist," one commentator said.

On Saturday, newspapers showed two handlers from the Health Ministry leading the puzzled young bull away - one pushing his gray rump, the other pulling his cream-colored nose.

"I hope they treat him with care," an indignant Galli told the daily La Stampa. "They're responsible for him now."

The veterinarian insisted he violated no laws in cloning Galileo. But health ministry officials disagreed, accusing him of straying into a genetic Wild West of lawless experimentation.

"The experiment was conducted in violation of all ministerial directives concerning cloning, to say nothing of ... the 1992 legislative decree on animal experimentation," Health Minister Rosy Bindi said.

Bindi issued a decree forbidding cloning at the end of 1998. The 1992 guidelines, among other things, require researchers to obtain government permission for animal experiments.

But Galli said the Galileo embryo predates Bindi's decree. He also said the ministry told him he didn't need permission for the subsequent experiments that led to the bull's birth.

The technique Galli used for his bull differed from the Dolly experiment, which used a cell from an adult ewe's udder. Galli used a white blood cell from Zoldo to create an embryo, then implanted it into a cow.

Italy has a bit of a split personality when it comes to reproductive and genetic technology.

Italian researchers have been among the world's leaders in technology that lets older women give birth. At the same time, many Italians recoil at cloning and genetic experiments on religious grounds and reject many biotechnological techniques as crimes against nature and the environment.

With this in mind - and girding for controversy - Galli named his bull in honor of the Renaissance astronomer who faced the wrath of the Inquisition for saying the Earth revolves around the Sun.

"It wasn't an accident we named him Galileo," Galli told the daily Corriere della Sera.