In order to meet the soaring demand for meat, China is increasingly relying on cloned cows. A new government-sponsored cloning park, expected to open by mid-2016, will begin producing 100,000 cloned cattle embryos annually, eventually increasing to 1 million embryos over the next few years.
According to Boyalife Group, whose subsidiary Sinica will run the centre, cloning beef cattle is particularly appealing to Chinese farmers because it represents a more reliable source, also allowing them to obtain ‘perfect’ animals by combining various features.
“We are going down a path that no one has ever travelled, we are building something that has not existed in the past,” said Xu Xiaochun, board chairman, Boyalife Group. Besides cows, the centre will clone drug sniffing dogs, pet dogs and race horses, reportedly becoming the ‘world’s largest cloning factory’. The first animal to come down the line will be Japanese cows.
China is not an absolute beginner, with around 500 pigs being cloned annually by Chinese company BGI as ‘disease models’, genetically engineered to test out new medicines. Meanwhile, researchers all over the world are developing GM animals, such as cows without horns and double-muscled pigs.