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'This was a goal of humanity'

Dr Venter today defended himself against accusations that he was 'playing God'.

Speaking from Washington, he said: "That's a term that comes up every time there is a new breakthrough associated with biology.

"It's been a goal of humanity from the earlier stages to try and control nature. That's how we got domesticated animals."

Asked if the technique could be bought by the highest bidder, he replied: "The technology is not for sale, the cells are not for sale."

He also dismissed the danger of bioterrorism, stating: "Most people are in agreement that there is a slight increase in the potential for harm but there's an exponential increase in the potential benefit to society."