What it Is

Scientists from China have announced that they will establish a commercial animal cloning center in the Tianjin Economic and Technological Development Area (TEDA), a government-sponsored business development park. Here, they will clone various animals, including dogs, cattle, and horses.

The purpose of this project isn't strictly scientific. Indeed, a large part of the rationale is to provide for China's ever increasing food demands, thanks to the burgeoning population. When completed, it is slated to cost approximately $500 million, and will include a research laboratory, a gene bank, and also a museum.

The center should be operational by mid-2016.

TEDA signed a deal with Sinica, a subsidiary of Boyalife Group, to complete the project. The center will be jointly built by Sinica, Peking University's Institute of Molecular Medicine, the Tianjin International Joint Academy of Biomedicine, and the Republic of Korea's Sooam Biotech Research Foundation.

The Implications

Chinese farmers have been hard-pressed to keep up with increasing market demand for beef. The center, which will initially produce 100,000 cattle embryos a year and 1 million once it is fully operational, is aiming to address that dilemma. It will be the largest facility of its kind worldwide.

To date, cloning is used in some farm animal breeding programs that are based in the United States; however, in September of this year, the European Parliament voted to ban cloned animals and their products, arguing that the techniques inflict greater suffering on animals than conventional breeding methods.

Scientists also assert that such facilities could be used to help endangered species.

Ultimately, researchers in China have been cloning mice, sheep, cattle, and pigs since 1996. China’s first commercial cloning company cloned three Tibetan mastiff puppies in 2014. Recently, there has been considerable interest in the country in cloning for commercial purposes, such as for animal husbandry. This development seems to be a logical next step for the country, though criticism of the practice (specifically in relation to its use in agriculture) is widespread.

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