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(NaturalNews) For the Chinese, this is considered to be a major scientific breakthrough. For the planet, however, probably not so much.
As reported by the UK’s Telegraph, the Chinese are set to open the world’s largest animal “cloning factory” in the near future, that is expected to produce one million calves per year, as well as sniffer dogs and genetic copies of the family pet. The multi-million dollar “commercial” facility, to be built in Tianjin, is in line with the development of a technique begun in Scotland in 1996, when “Dolly” the sheep became the first cloned mammal.
The cloning center is already sparking concerns across much of the world, as ethical questions arise and others worry particularly about the quality and safety of the cloned meat (cloning of animals for farming was banned throughout Europe in September). Others are focused on animal welfare and conditions of the plant, given China’s historically poor quality assurance standards.
That said, Xu Xiaochun, the chairman of Chinese biotech firm BoyaLife, which is a backer of the plant, waved off such concerns.
“Let me ask one question,” Xu said of the Euro ban. “Was this ban based on scientific rationale or ethical rationale or political agenda? The Telegraph reported.
“Legislation is always behind science. But in the area of cloning, I think we are going the wrong way and starting to kill the technology,” he continued.
Technique ‘not yet mature’
For all the wrong reasons there has been an uptick in interest regarding agricultural biotechnology, primarily in the realm of genetically modified organisms, or GMOs (which many European nations have also banned over health and food safety concerns), particularly in China were farmers appear to be having trouble supplying enough beef for the country’s ravenous, growing middle classes. There, prices of meat tripled between 2000 and 2013, the Telegraph reported.
But the new Chinese facility isn’t limiting itself to beef production. Xu said the plant will also produce cloned racehorses and some dogs for customers who have “emotional ties” to their pets. However, he said, the main focus will be on cattle production – though he was clearly animated about plans to produce sniffer dogs.
“The dog has to be smart and obedient, strong, sensitive,” he told the UK paper. “That’s one in one hundred. You would normally have to look at a large number of dogs to find this one.”
The plant will feature a large laboratory for research and experimentation, an animal center, a gene bank and a large exhibition hall. It’s being built in Tianjin, which is near the country’s capital of Beijing, and is expected to open in the first half of 2016.
BoyaLife plans to operate the facility with Sooam Biotech, a South Korean partner, which itself runs a plant that is capable of cloning dogs for customers, but at a hefty price: $100,000. Even so, the plant has already produced 550 puppies.
‘Should we allow that?’
The Telegraph reported further:
“Company head Hwang Woo-Suk was considered a national hero when he pioneered the world’s first cloned dog in 2005, but his research into creating human stem cells was found in 2006 to have been faked.
“The two partners last year produced three pure-blood Tibetan mastiff puppies replicas, which was considered a major breakthrough for China, which has cloned sheep, cattle and pigs over the past 15 years.”
Plans are for the plant to initially produce 100,000 cattle embryos a year, with plans to raise that amount to 1 million per annum.
The European Parliament’s top environmental committee member, Renate Sommer, says the cloning technique to be used by the Chinese is not “fully mature.”
“In fact, no further progress has been made with it,” she said in September, when the EP was considering the cloning ban. “The mortality rate remains equally high. Many of the animals which are born alive die in the first few weeks, and they die painfully. Should we allow that?”
No, of course not. And, as the Telegraph noted in a separate report, human cloning of organs is fast approaching as well, using the same “Dolly” technology.
Besides the moral implications of cloned body parts, cattle and – eventually – human beings, we ought to be very concerned about what we’re doing, for you can create a human being out of cloned DNA, but can you clone the human soul?
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