There is a new factory in Tianjin, China that is about to break all the boundaries of research. Boyalife, a scientific research company based in Wuxi, China, announced the construction of the world’s largest animal cloning center at the end of 2015. Donations of over $31 million funded the project from Chinese research facilities as well as the Republic of Korea’s Sooam Biotech Research Foundation.
Boyalife states that the immediate goal of the factory is to produce cloned beef cattle to meet the overwhelming food demands in China. By mid-2016, the factory will be fully functional and producing about 100,000 beef cattle annually. By 2020, Boyalife expects to produce up to 1 million cattle a year – 5% of the beef cattle slaughtered nationally in China. This is unprecedented compared to cloning rates in other nations. In the United States, the FDA approved the use of cloned livestock in 2008 for meat and dairy, but public perception has confined the use of cloned beef for solely breeding purposes. The UK requires special permission for the sale of cloned beef, limiting it to a niche market.
2014 saw Boyalife, in a partnership with the Sooam Biotech Research Foundation, begin their foray into commercial cloning. An adorable set of triplet Tibetan Mastiff puppies were born. Boyalife now also clones racehorses and people’s beloved pets. The company hopes to venture into cloning endangered species as well. Many endangered species are at risk because they cannot successfully reproduce. Take, for example, the dwindling Big Horn Ram. It is possible to implant cloned Big Horn Ram embryos into several dozen sheep, increasing the odds of healthy offspring and working to prevent extinction. Boyalife intends to take advantage of cloning to save species in this manner, highlighting hopes to one day clone Giant Pandas.
Soon research will begin on primate cloning. Natural curiosity begs the question: when will human cloning begin at Boyalife? Chief Executive Xu Xiaochun believes the technology will be ready for human cloning before the public – what is considered normal and acceptable is controlled by a society and will evolve with societal beliefs. Just as public opinion of homosexuality and in vitro fertilization has drastically changed with time, so will the opinion of human cloning by 2060.
Science fiction has a large hand in misconceptions related to cloning. Cloning is not the instantaneous scanner and copier production humanity believes it to be. Clones are gestated just like natural babies and developed based on their genetics, environment and nurture, analogously to naturally conceived children. Years from now, society might allow cloning of humans for reproductive purposes, allowing parents more control over the genetic makeup of their children. The technology is at our fingertips. All we must do is grasp it.
Boyalife, a scientific research company based in Wuxi, China, announced the construction of the world’s largest animal cloning center at the end of 2015. The immediate goal of the factory is to produce cloned beef cattle to meet the overwhelming food demands in China, but could one day be cloning endangered species and even humans.