According to a recent report, China plans to open the largest animal cloning center in 2016. The facility would be located in Tianjin and would initially generate 100,000 cattle embryos on a yearly basis. The final goal is one million embryos.
China-based biotech company Boyalife and the Korean Sooam Biotech are the two companies that would run the $31 million facility. The center is designed to clone not just cattle, but pets and racehorses, as well, and it would also have a museum and a gene bank.
Boyalife’s head Xu Xiaochun recently told reporters that the demand for beef cattle skyrocketed in recent years, and farmers often fail to meet that demand. But with an output of 100,000 embryos every year the problem might get solved.
Nevertheless, the news was met with skepticism on the social media. Some people are not too eager to eat cloned meat that is produced by a state that already has a long history of food-safety issues.
One critic said that the beef should be tested by the Communist party leaders and their families for at least 10 years before giving it to population. Another critic expressed a similar view and wished for Chinese political leaders to eat the meat first.
But there is another reason for concern. Critics noted that the man behind Sooam Biotech, Woo-suk Hwang, was convicted six years ago for research fund embezzlement and for illegally purchasing human embryos for genetic experiments.
Jaydee Hanson of the Center for Food Safety doesn’t expect the partnership between the two biotech to last very long because, when it comes to Woo-suk, people tend to become suspicious.
Plus, animal cloning is still a controversial issue despite the technology being around for nearly two decades and having a cloned animal being born in 1996. This fall, European politicians banned animal cloning for commercial purposes because of animal welfare concerns.
Gregory Jaffe, a biotech expert at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, explained that no technology should be used in the food supply if it wasn’t first proven safe to humans. The FDA said seven years ago that meat and other products from cloned farm animals are safe for human consumption.
In the last decade or so, Chinese scientists were able to clone cattle, pigs, and sheep. Boyalife wrote on its site that, until now, animal cloning was a technology used only in research laboratories. But recently, many biotechs plan to invest in the technology for commercial purposes.
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