Chinese scientists have figured out how to clone cows, but will it feed a rapidly growing population?
As the Chinese economy continues to grow and more people enter the middle class, the demand for meat, and beef in particular, rises as well. According to a report from Discovery News, Chinese scientists have developed a unique method for dealing with this ever-increasing demand for red meat; they have begun building the world’s largest facility specifically to clone cows.
The researchers working with the Boyalife Group have already broken ground on the factory, which is situated near the northern Chinese town of Tianjin. The factory is slated to begin production in seven months and will hopefully have cloned one million cows a year by 2020. According to Xu Xiaochun, the CEO of Boyalife Group, however, cloning cows is only the beginning.
The company is also looking into cloning racehorses, as well as dogs for both pet and police purposes. Partnering with South Korean firm Sooam and the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the group hopes to improve cloning in primates in an effort to improve research and testing protocols.
The group’s announcement to engage in primate cloning has raised speculation that human cloning is not far behind; after all, humans and most primates share a majority of their DNA. Making the leap between the two would be relatively simple.
“The technology is already there. If this is allowed, I don’t think there are other companies better than Boyalife that make better technology,” Xu said in a statement.
The world may not be ready for human clones just yet. Xu said that human cloning would need to be “self-restrained” in order to avoid backlash from critics and opponents on ethical an dmoral grounds.
Xu knows that opinions can change over time, however. He cited a growing worldwide acceptance of homosexuality, which he reasoned could extend into a greater acceptance of alternative reproduction techniques that don’t necessarily rely on a biological mother and father.
The facility bills its cloining activities as a safeguard for biodiversity, and has been amassing a genetic bank that has the capacity to store up to five million cell samples suspended in frozen liquid nitrogen. This technology could be used to preserve the DNA of species that are at risk of going extinct, and could have profound implications for the progression of species evolution in the Holocene era.
A press release from Boyalife describing the plans for the cow-cloning facility can be found here.