A Human Clone Factory?

by W. Samuel Hargesheimer

Imagine this: during your routine trip to the meat section of the grocery store, you encounter two steaks that appear to be of the same size and quality, except one has a label indicating it is from a regular farm and the other has a label indicating it is from a cloning factory. Until relatively recent technological advancements, such an idea was a mere figment of the imagination, but scientists are now capable of cloning animals such as dogs, cows, and other farm animals. Not only that, but they can do so using an entire cloning factory.

Boyalife Group, based out of China, is currently the world’s innovating force behind creating the world’s first cloning factory near the port of Tianjin. The company is on track to have the factory go into production within the next seven months and aims to have an output of at least one million cloned cows per year by 2020. According to the company’s website, the factory will cost approximately 31 million dollars and “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.”

With a backlash of negative publicity due to the questionable nature of the company’s intent to clone animals on a massive scale, it only makes sense that Boyalife’s leading scientist would be afraid to publicly announce their biggest technological advancement yet: the ability to clone entire humans. That’s right, among this company’s technological and scientific capabilities, they are actually able to clone human beings, according to Boyalife chief executive Xu Xiaochun. “The technology is already there,” Xu said to the Agence France-Presse (AFP). “If this is allowed, I don’t think there are other companies better than Boyalife that make better technology.”

Though an astonishing company projection, these are not going to be mankind’s first successful attempts at animal cloning. During late 1995 and early 1996, scientists were able to successfully clone a sheep from an embryo, allowing the embryo to grow for six days before providing a surrogate mother for the remainder of the sheep’s development. By July 5th of 1996, Dolly the cloned sheep was born, being just as healthy and capable as a naturally-born lamb would be after birth and proving to the world that animal closing was, in fact, possible without consequential birth defects.

According to Xu, the Boyalife’s aspirations to clone animals at a factory-scale level primarily arose from the problem China faces concerning farmers not producing enough beef cattle to meet the economic demand of the nation. With a low supply of beef available to Chinese citizens, there was a calling for a new market and an incentive to attempt clone-grown foods. Although many people still question the moral validity of engaging in animal cloning, the practice of cloning has existed in China since the year 2000, and it was inevitable for the practice to eventually be applied to alleviate the problem of beef shortage.

But applying this practice of cloning to replicate a human life is not something Boyalife can engage in, or at least not until the negative connotations and governmental restrictions are lifted from the idea of human cloning. “Maybe in the future you have three choices instead of one,” said 44-year-old Xu Xiaochun. “You either have fifty-fifty, or you have a choice of having the genetics 100% from Daddy or 100% from Mummy. This is only a choice.”

Sooam, a South Korean partner of Boyalife, has also been working on bringing back to life the extinct woolly mammoth that once lived thousands of years ago. Using cells frozen millenniums ago within Serbian permafrost, scientists at Sooam are able to clone the preserved cells and eventually replicate the woolly mammoth as it existed when it went extinct. On top of that, Sooam serves a specialized sector of the cloning market by cloning customers’ dead pet dogs for prices around $100,000 each.

Earlier this year, Sooam founder Hwang Woo-Suk, in South Korea’s newspaper titled Dong-A Ilbo, said that his firm was planning a joint cloning venture in China “because of South Korea’s bioethics law that prohibits the use of human eggs.” “We have decided to locate the facilities in China in case we enter the phase of applying the technology to human bodies,” he was quoted as saying.

Overall, despite overarching questions of moral duties as human beings, it appears that many scientific companies around the world are not only already equipped to clone animals on a large scale, but could also possibly be able to clone human beings in the near future. Although the US Food and Drug Administration has conducted research and concluded that cloned beef is safe for human consumption, it is a matter that has yet to be addressed by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization. Regardless, Boyalife is set to begin cloned beef production very soon.

Screenshot of Boyalife Website

http://www.boyalifegroup.com/english/introduction.aspx

Dolly the Sheep meeting the media

http://www.roslin.ed.ac.uk/public-interest/dolly-the-sheep/a-life-of-dolly/