Chinese Firm says “No” to Cloning Humans, but “Yes” to Cloning Beef Cattle

Chinese Firm says “No” to Cloning Humans, but “Yes” to Cloning Beef Cattle
Science & Medicine

Chinese scientists say they won’t be cloning humans anytime in the immediate future. But that doesn’t mean it won’t happen ever, and it doesn’t mean they don’t want to clone animals like cattle.

When Chinese biotech company Boyalife Group’s $30 million cloning facility becomes operational, it will produce embryos of cattle, racehorses, and contraband-sniffing dogs. But Dr. Xu Xiaochun, the company’s CEO, says Boyalife is aware of the dangers of cloning human embryos, which is why it’s holding off, for now. [1]

“No, we don’t do human cloning, we won’t make Frankensteins,” said Xu. “The technology we have is very advanced … [but if uncontrolled] technology can also do damage … Every technology has to have a boundary. Our primary focus is prime quality beef.”

While the world waits for the terrifying possibility of 2 Kanye Wests, the terrifying reality of Frankenburgers is already here.

Despite the World Health Organization’s (WHO) announcement earlier this year linking beef consumption to cancer and environmentalists voicing concern over the livestock industry’s negative impact on the planet, beef consumption is growing at double-digit rates in China, and the country is increasingly importing its beef due to the low quality of that nation’s domestic beef.

Initially, Boyalife’s facility, based in Tianjin, will churn out some 100,000 embryos of prime beef cattle each year. Eventually, that number will rise to 1 million, making it the largest animal-cloning operation in the world.

Before cloned beef can reach grocery store shelves in China, Boyalife must receive the approval of the Ministry of Agriculture and other government agencies.

Here in the U.S., we could be regularly chowing down on cloned meat and we don’t even know it. The odds are decent that some of Boyalife’s products might wind up in our own at some point – especially now that Congress has decided Americans don’t need to know where their meat comes from.

But the vast majority of the world hasn’t embraced human cloning, and it will be a long time until it does.

Xu said in an interview with Agence-France Presse (AFP) earlier this month that human cloning is already possible and it has the technology to do it, but society is still afraid of the potential ramifications of the practice. He’s hoping that in the not-too-distant future, the taboo against producing human beings will be shed much like the taboo against homosexuality has largely fallen by the wayside. [2]

“Unfortunately, currently, the only way to have a child is to have it be half its mum, half its dad,” he said. “Maybe in the future you have three choices instead of one,” he went on. “You either have fifty-fifty, or you have a choice of having the genetics 100 percent from Daddy or 100 percent from Mummy. This is only a choice.”

Xu also said:

“Technology is moving very fast … [and] social values can change,” he said. “Maybe in 100 years, in 200 years, people will think differently. [They] may think this technology is going to benefit the human race as a whole … Boyalife will move along with social values.”

“Different people have different characters … We want to keep this diversity,” Xu added. “We really don’t want the entire society to become one billion Einsteins.”

…Or Kardashians.

Just because humanity has accepted the idea of human cloning, that doesn’t mean it will be 100-200 years before companies start doing it. If there’s money to be made, taboos won’t matter.


[1] NBC News

[2] The Huffington Post