China to open cloning factory to produce more cattle

China is planning to open a 'cloning factory' which will aim to produce one million calves and other animals a year, including family pets.

The £21m plant is backed by Chinese and South Korean biotechnology firms and will include cloning laboratories and a gene bank, Chinese news agencies reported.

It will be based in the northern port of Tianjin and begin production next year, with an initial capacity of 100,00 cattle embryos a year, eventually raising to 1 million.

"Chinese farmers are struggling to produce enough beef cattle to meet market demand," said Boyalife chairman Xu Xiaochun.

The European Parliament recently beefed up the Commission's initial proposals to ban animal cloning.

"The technique of cloning is not fully mature, and in fact, no further progress has been made with it," said the environment committee co-rapporteur, Renate Sommer (EPP, DE).

"The mortality rate remains equally high. Many of the animals which are born alive die in the first few weeks, and they die painfully. Should we allow that?"

“Up to now, we have been able to import reproductive material from third countries. We are washing our hands letting others do the dirty work. We want to ban comprehensively. Not just the use of cloning techniques but the imports of reproductive material, clones and their descendants. Traceability is possible. There are pedigree books, breeding books, stock books available. I'd like to ask the European Commission to rethink this whole thing. Sometimes, politics have to set the limits,” said Ms Sommer.

"We need to take into account the impact on animal health, but also on human health,” said the agriculture committee co-rapporteur, Giulia Moi (EFDD, IT).

“This reports sends the message to our trade partners that we are not willing to put our own health, our families' health, and future generations' health at stake using products of dubious quality of this nature," she said. “Our farmers are currently faced with major competitive pressure from Asia particularly, due to certain practices, including cloning. But Europe is based on values and that includes quality. We want to be sure that we don't go down a path from which there is no return,” she added.

While animal welfare would be respected for the descendants of cloned animals born by means of conventional sexual reproduction, the high mortality rates at all development stages of cloning their progenitor raise significant animal welfare and ethical concerns, says Parliament. It therefore extended the ban to cover the germinal products of animal clones, descendants of animal clones and products derived from them.

The EP points to findings by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) from 2008 that the health and welfare of clones are adversely affected, often severely and with a fatal outcome. The resulting low efficiency rates in cloning (6 to 15% for bovine and 6% for porcine species) make it necessary to implant embryo clones into several dams to obtain one cloned animal. Furthermore, clone abnormalities and unusually large offspring result in difficult births and neonatal deaths.