While the rest of the world sorts out its feelings about the safety and ethics of cloning animals for food production, China is charging ahead and building the world’s largest animal cloning factory, set to begin operations in 2016.
Photo via Flickr user Susanne Nilsson
How do you feel about eating cloned meat?
While the rest of the world sorts out its feelings about the safety and ethics of cloning animals for food production, China is charging ahead and building the world's largest animal cloning factory, set to begin operations in 2016. The 200 million yuan (over $31 million) commercial animal cloning center will be located in the Tianjin Economic-Technological Development Area, a government-sponsored business area about 100 miles from Beijing.
Feelings are decidedly mixed about whether we should be eating cloned meat. On one hand, the European Parliament recently voted by a large margin to outlaw the sale of cloned livestock. On the other hand, the FDA has said that "there are no complications that are unique to cloning" and the meat is safe to eat, despite evidence that cloned animals may not live as long as those birthed in the old-fashioned way. In the US, no special labeling is required for cloned meat, and no one really seems to know how common the practice of cloning meat for food is. Still, some say that most of the cattle cloned in the US are used to breed stock and are not sold for food.
But China is going full steam ahead. The new facility will focus on cloning cattle to feed China's burgeoning population, which likes its meat.
Xu Xiaochun, the chief executive of BoyaLife, the company behind the new operation, told The Guardian, "We are going [down] a path that no one has ever travelled. We are building something that has not existed in the past." The company intends to produce 100,000 cow embryos per year and hopes to provide 5 percent of the meat eaten in China.
In addition to cattle, BoyaLife will be cloning champion racehorses and dogs used to sniff out victims of natural disasters or stashes of illegal drugs. Xu told The Guardian that the new clone factory would also rescue endangered species from extinction.
Xu is pretty confident that cloned animals are safe to eat and will benefit humanity: "This is going to change our world and our lives. It is going to make our life better. So we are very, very excited about it."
The cloning factory will be a partnership involving Sooam Biotech, a South Korean company that will clone your dog for you so that you can replicate your best friend and cheat your way out of a dog's short lifespan. Sooam Biotech is run by the scientist Hwang Woo-suk, once known as "the pride of Korea" and the "king of cloning." Problem is, he was found to have fabricated a series of experiments back in 2006, and was dismissed from his post at Seoul National University. His transgressions had to do with "research fraud and gross ethical lapses in the way he obtained human eggs for his experiments."
His partners in China's new cloning factory are evidently not alarmed by his checkered past. Xu said the world's largest animal cloning factory was now almost complete. "We want it to be modern, we want it to be cutting edge. We want it to represent the future," he said.
Let's just hope Wayne Knight doesn't get his Jurassic Park on and screw this up for humanity too.