Boyalife Group, a Chinese cloning company, announced last month that it's setting up shop in Tianjin, a northern port city, along with partner Sooam Biotech. By mid-2016, Boyalife said in a statement, Tianjin will be home to a fully functional animal cloning facility. Boyalife explains:
The plant in the Tianjin Economic and Technological Development Area (TEDA), a government-sponsored business development park, will clone animals including sniffer and pet dogs, beef cattle and racehorses… It will produce 100,000 cattle embryos a year initially, eventually increasing to 1 million, said Xu Xiaochun, board chairman of Boyalife Group, based in Wuxi, east China's Jiangsu Province.
The idea is to clone cattle for consumption, in an effort to combat China's beef shortage. But in an interview with Agence-France Presse (AFP) that was published this week, Xu said that his plan for the cloning facility goes far beyond creating 100,000 cloned cows. Xu wants to clone humans as, he said, he already can. But he won't, for now. From AFP:
"The technology is already there," Xu said. "If this is allowed, I don't think there are other companies better than Boyalife that make better technology." The firm does not currently engage in human cloning activities, Xu said, adding that it has to be "self-restrained" because of possible adverse reaction.
In other words, Xu thinks Boyalife could totally clone humans if everyone got suddenly cool about cloning humans. And he thinks they might, now that homophobia is on the outs. Here's AFP parsing through that faulty logic:
But social values can change, [Xu] pointed out, citing changing views of homosexuality and suggesting that in time humans could have more choices about their own reproduction. "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's not the only one with creepy plans for cloning. Last year, the South Korean Sooam Biotech launched dog cloning service. For $100,000, Sooam Biotech will clone your beloved dead pet.
Xu will likely face challenges even before humans are added to the list of clonable animals. The New York Times reported last week that the project has not yet been given final approval by the Chinese government: "Before bringing cloned beef to the market, Mr. Xu said, his company must receive the approval of the Ministry of Agriculture and other government agencies. He did not elaborate." Good luck, we guess.
Danielle Wiener-Bronner is a news reporter.