While controversy continues in the Western world over genetically modified livestock in the food chain, China – with the help of a South Korean research institution-- is upping the ante on producing more high-quality meat at cheaper prices through a mass cloning program.
China is currently billing the new facility as the “world’s largest cloning factory,” not as the “only” or first such factory as others already do exist. Anyway, the factory is expected to start producing next year with the first batch of product being cloned cattle.
“The first animal to come down the line will be Japanese cows, in an attempt to lower the price of high-quality beef in the Chinese market, Dr. Xu Xiaochun, chairman and CEO of Boyalife, told Chinese media, according to a report in Quartz. “[We are] now promoting cloned cows and cloned horses to improve China’s modern animal husbandry industry,” Xu said.
Besides the cloning production line, which presumably will expand to clone pigs, sheep and other livestock, the facility in the city of Tianjin will include a cloned animal center, a gene bank, and a science and education exhibition hall.
Here’s a video report on the new factory and related history of animal cloning.
Meanwhile, the Western world remains wary of cloning food animals. The preference in the West is to stave off future starvation by breeding more disease and climate resistant animals and by banking both genes and seeds to ensure enough biodiversity to further protect food stock.
You can see one example of these types efforts in this Newsweek post titled “Breakfast in Post-Apocalypse America: Inside Colorado's Fort Knox of Food.”
“Gene banks—like the world’s agricultures—aren’t self-sufficient. The good news is that gene banks have proliferated in the past decade,” according to that Newsweek post.
“There are now roughly 1,750 worldwide, and the number of samples has grown to 7.4 million. In large part, this is thanks to the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. Better known as the Seed Treaty, this agreement ensures that farmers, plant breeders and scientists worldwide can easily share the seeds and genetic materials of the world’s 64 most important crops—accounting for 80 percent of the food we derive from plants. The European Union and 134 other nations, including the U.S. [and Canada], have ratified the agreement.”
The underlying problem here lies in the need to feed nearly 10 billion people by 2050. Current farming and food production processes will not be sufficient to feed that many hungry mouths.
Add to that pressures from disease, droughts, floods, climate change in general, war decimated farmlands, continued reduction in biodiversity, and other stressors and worldwide hunger is uncomfortably closer than many people realize.
Many efforts to address wide food shortages have been underway in nearly every developed country for decades leading to everything from GMOs to lab created meats, and now mass animal cloning.
This China factory is expected to begin with the production of 100,000 clones but will rapidly scale up to over a million or more. It’s yet to be seen if that effort will lead to other countries doing the same. However, cheaper food from cloning may fan competitive pressures that lead to other countries cloning livestock too on a massive scale.
We’ll have to wait and see how things unfold. In the meantime, those that fight to prevent worldwide hunger are the modern day unsung heroes – even if not all such efforts prevail or some eventually prove unwise or unsustainable.
To do nothing is to starve.
China to produce cloned animals to reduce beef prices, increase food supply