Farm Ireland

Tuesday 20 February 2018

Chinese open world's largest cloning factory

Dolly the first cloned sheep. PA
Dolly the first cloned sheep. PA

Chris McCullough

A seemingly unstoppable hunger for beef in China has pushed the country to extremes and it is now building a whopping €30m animal cloning factory.

It is opening the world's biggest animal cloning factory which they say will make what is controversial science a little bit more acceptable.

The commercial grade facility will be built in Tianjin to produce one million calves a year as well as sniffer dogs and clones of the beloved family pet.

Animal cloning dates back to Dolly the sheep who became the first cloned mammal and was born in Scotland in 1996.

Such cloning of animals was banned in Europe in September for animal welfare reasons, but the Chinese factory has good backing.

Supporting the plant is Xu Xiaochun, chairman of Chinese biotechnology company BoyaLife, who dismissed such welfare concerns.

"Let me ask one question," he said. "Was this ban based on scientific rationale or ethical rationale or political agenda?

"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.

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Chinese farmers are struggling to produce enough beef for the country's middle-class population that is undergoing rapid growth. Beef prices have tripled from 2000 to 2013.

Although the new factory will focus on cloning cattle, it will also clone some racehorses, dogs and other pets which their owners have "emotional ties" to.

The factory will include a 15,000 sqm laboratory, an animal centre, a gene bank and an exhibition hall, and is currently being built in the port city of Tianjin, near Beijing, and is due to open in the first half of next year.

BoyaLife will operate the facility with its South Korean partner, Sooam Biotech, that runs a centre that can clone dogs for customers willing to pay $100,000 (€95,000), and has already produced more than 550 puppies.

The 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 new facility will initially produce 100,000 cattle embryos a year, eventually increasing to one million.

Indo Farming