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China to build massive cow cloning facility: Are cloned humans next?

The Chinese company Boyalife hopes the cattle cloning factory will help change global perceptions of cloning.

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The company behind China's newly proposed cattle cloning factory, set to be the largest of its kind in the world, says it expects to one day expand its work to include cloning humans as well.

China is not the only country working on producing cloned beef to enhance food supplies for the world's growing population. While European Union leaders have expressed concerns about the practice and moved to ban the sale of cloned meat products, the US FDA in 2008 declared that "meat and milk from cow, pig, and goat clones and the offspring of any animal clones are as safe as food we eat every day." The possibility of creating human clones, however, is highly contested throughout the world.

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Nevertheless, Xu Xiaochun, CEO of the Boyalife Group, says he is optimistic that the process will be permitted one day and that his company is poised to be a leader in what he expects will be a burgeoning industry.

"The technology is already there. If this is allowed, I don't think there are other companies better than Boyalife that make better technology," Mr. Xu told RT.

Xu acknowledged that the company has to be "self-restrained" about pursuing human cloning because public perception still is not yet fully accepting of the concept. He hopes that a factory like the one that will be opening in Tianjin will help shift that view.

"We want the public to see that cloning is really not that crazy, that scientists aren’t weird, dressed in lab coats, hiding behind a sealed door doing weird experiments," he said.

He hopes that the expected success of Boyalife's new cattle factory at helping to solve China's food crisis will change the way people view cloning.

The new factory, which will be based in the northern port city of Tianjin, will also include a museum and gene storage facilities holding the genetic records of endangered species for future replication. 

Chinese demand for beef has grown substantially over the past decade, and farmers are struggling to raise enough cattle to keep up with demand. Rabobank, a bank focused on the food and agriculture industry, projects that China’s beef consumption will rise by an additional 2.2 million tons by 2025, with local sources accounting for the bulk of that product.  

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The Tianjin factory will initially produce 100,000 cattle embryos a year, but is projected to produce 1 million a year by 2020.

Boyalife reports that China has been cloning sheep, cattle, and pigs since 2000. Boyalife is currently working with Sooam Biotech Research Foundation, located in Seoul, South Korea, and the Chinese Academy of Sciences, located in Beijing, to develop the technology that will make cloning primates possible.