Here's a little exercise in imagination; you're going over to some friends' place for dinner, and they present you with a huge steak that looks so delicious it makes your mouth water. You cut out a bite and just before your lips touch the much-craved morsel you hear your host saying it's "top quality cloned-veal."
What do you do now? Do you eye your steak suspiciously and then try your best to ignore it the whole meal or do you chow down on your not-so-unique cut of veal?
A controversial choice
It seems that there are as many opinions regarding the use of cloned meat for food as there are peoples. On one side of the spectrum, we have the European Parliament, who recently passed a law that outright bans the sale of cloned livestock. At the same time, despite evidence that cloned animals live shorter lives than their born-and-bred brothers, the FDA considers “there are no complications that are unique to cloning” and so the meat is safe to eat. US law doesn't require any special labeling for cloned meat, while officials don't really know how common the use of cloned meat in food is, most cloned cattle in the country are probably not sold for food but used as breed stock.
And now China steps up to color the other end of the specter -- a massive, 200 million yuan (over $31 million) commercial animal cloning facility will be built in the Tianjin Economic-Technological Development Area (a government-owned business area about 100 miles out of Beijing) with the sole purpose of cloning China's cattle. And given the country's already immense population, positive birthrate but most of all its burgeoning middle-class, it's gonna be a lot of cattle.
“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, chief executive of BoyaLife, the company behind the new operation for The Guardian.
The company intends to produce 100,000 cow embryos each year, providing around 5 percent of the meat eaten in China. BoyaLife also plans to clone champion racehorses and dogs used to sniff out victims of natural disasters or stashes of illegal drugs. Xu also told The Guardian that the new clone factory would be used to prevent endangered species from going extinct.
“This is going to change our world and our lives. It is going to make our life better. So we are very, very excited about it,” Xu added.
South Korean company Sooam Biotech will also participate in setting up the cloning complex, lending their expertise in this field (apparently they can even clone your dog for you, if you wand that for whatever reason) to the factory processes. The company is run by scientist Hwang Woo-suk, once known as “the pride of Korea” and the “king of cloning,” who has since fell out of grace and was dismissed from his post at Seoul National University when it was found he fabricated a series of experiments in 2006. It seems he was guilty of “research fraud and gross ethical lapses in the way he obtained human eggs for his experiments.”
Still, his partners from China aren't discouraged by this, and work on their factory is in full swing, and almost complete.
“We want it to be modern, we want it to be cutting edge. We want it to represent the future,” Xu concluded.