The world's largest animal cloning factory is under construction in China. The facility will include cloning laboratories and a gene bank. The factory has plans to churn out pet and police dogs, racehorses and cows, to be sold on the open market on an industrial scale. These reports have prompted online fears.
The 200-million-yuan ($31-million) facility is being set up by Chinese biotechnology firm Boyalife and South Korea's Sooam Biotech - whose founder was embroiled in controversy a decade ago over claims to have cloned human embryos - along with two Chinese research institutions.
‘The 200-million-yuan ($31-million) animal cloning facility is being set up by Chinese biotechnology firm Boyalife and South Korea's Sooam Biotech. Reports revealing their plans to churn out pet and police dogs, racehorses and cows, to be sold on the open market on an industrial scale has prompted online fears.’
The factory in the northern port of Tianjin is set to start production in 2016, with initial capacity of 100,000 cattle embryos a year, growing to one million. Boyalife chairman Xu Xiaochun said, "Chinese farmers are struggling to produce enough beef cattle to meet market demand."
Boyalife reposted the report on its website. But social media users expressed scepticism over consumer appetite for cloned meat, pointing out that the plant will be close to the site of deadly chemical explosions that killed at least 165 people in August, and that China is plagued with food safety scandals.
One user said, "Is this meat going to be sold in South Korea or China? If in China, please make our leaders eat it first."
Another commenter wrote sarcastically, "This beef definitely must first be saved just for the central government leaders; only after they and their families have eaten it for 10 years should they deign to give it to us, the people! Really can't wait!"
Many are worried about the ethics of the venture. One asked, "Is cloning even legal?"
Another wondered, "Insane. There are already enough stray dogs at the moment, so many that the unclaimed ones are euthanised. What will be done with so many more?"
Sooam is run by Hwang Woo-suk, who claimed in 2004 to have derived stem-cell lines from cloned human embryos, a world first, and was lauded as a national hero in South Korea before it emerged that his research was fraudulent and riddled with ethical lapses.
Sooam's website lists instructions for what potential customers should do if they want to clone a dead pet dog.