China is raising fears after it was revealed that the world’s largest animal clone facility is already under construction – and it set to be handled by Chinese biotechnology firm Boyalife and Sooam Biotech of South Korea.
The thought of an animal cloning facility is scary – and this was made even scarier by the fact that Sooam is part of the program. The company is run by Hwang Woo-Suk, the man who was hailed a hero in South Korea for being the first person to “have derived stem-cell lines from cloned human embryos” until it was revealed that his research was filled with numerous ethical lapses and fraudulent data.
The joint venture between the Chinese and South Korean companies raised concerns that the cloning factory will have no qualms in doing unethical practices. Of course, cloning itself has long been the subject of debate and is not widely acceptable even in the scientific community!
Cloned Meat for Food?
The 200-million-yuan ($31-million) facility boasts a gene bank and several cloning laboratories which will create animals like cows, pets, racehorses, and police dogs the joint venture plans to sell in the open market.
This will be done in an industrial scale – meaning that the cloning facility will not just clone one or two animals but will be churning as many as 100,000 cattle embryos a year, its initial capacity! According to reports, Boyalife chairman Xu Xiaochun boasted that this capacity will be increased in the coming years, possibly up to 1 million per year!
“Chinese farmers are struggling to produce enough beef cattle to meet market demand,” Xu said.
Cloning 1 million cows per year can surely answer the growing demand for food in China but is the meat even edible and are there ethical matters to consider in consuming cloned meat? Of course, the proprietors claim there are none yet netizens are not so impressed.
What’s scarier is the fact that the companies could actually sell the cloned meat as real, fresh meat! How would consumers even know the difference if the cloned meat will not come with proper labels? Considering the food scandals that rocked China in recent years, it is possible that this could actually happen!
China Agricultural University professor of food science, Zhu Yi, claimed there will be “almost no difference” between cloned and real cattle but expressed reservations over the consumption of cloned meat. He said, “We cannot rush towards the cloned meat market.”
Zhu believes that “rigorous risk assessments and repeated experiments” must first be done before companies should produce and sell cloned meat for food. But the construction of the facility is already under way…