A Chinese biotech company has begun construction work on a cloning factory capable of producing a million head of beef a year in the northeastern city of Tianjin.
There have been some attempts to put cloning on an industrial footing elsewhere in the Asia Pacific region – most notably in South Korea – but the new factory will be larger and will clone a wider selection of animals than ever before.
The project is being developed by BoyaLife, a Chinese company that specialises in stem cell research and regenerative medicine. It will work with South Korea’s Sooam Biotech, which has cloned some 550 dogs over the past decade.
I can tell you, cloned beef is the tastiest beef I’ve had– Xu Xiaochun, chairman of BoyaLife
The centre will be built by BoyaLife subsidiary Sinica, Beijing University’s Institute of Molecular Medicine, the Tianjin International Joint Academy of Biomedicine and Sooam.
The development will include a cloning production line, a centre for cloned animals, a gene bank and an exhibition hall.
China’s state news agency Xinhua reported that Japanese cows will be the first genome to be tackled, followed by dogs, horses and primates.
The cows will be cloned to meet the growing demands for high quality meat in China.
Xu Xiaochun, the chairman of BoyaLife, said: "We are now promoting cloned cows and cloned horses to improve China’s modern animal husbandry industry."
Accroding to BoyaLife, the centre will initially clone 100,000 cattle embryos a year, a figure that will later increase to 1 million.
Xu is quoted in the Financial Times as saying: "China has made the impression that we are followers or copycats, but with cloning we will gradually become a global leader. We are travelling the path nobody has ever taken."
In contrast to Europe, China allows the cloning of farm animals. Another Chinese company, Beijing Genomic Institute, currently clones 500 pigs each year in a factory in Shenzhen, southeast China.
Image: Five cloned piglets, believed to be the first of their kind in the world, were created by PPL Therapeutics, the company which brought Dolly the sheep into the world. (PPL Therapeutics via BWP Media/Getty Images)