The world’s biggest animal “cloning factory” is due to open in China, producing one million calves a year, sniffer dogs and even genetic copies of the family pet.
The £21 million “commercial” facility will edge the controversial science “closer to mainstream acceptance”, Chinese media said, following the development of a technique which began when Dolly the sheep became the first cloned mammal when she was born in Scotland in 1996.
The centre may cause alarm in Europe, where the cloning of animals for farming was banned in September due to animal welfare considerations.
But Xu Xiaochun, chairman of Chinese biotechnology company BoyaLife that is backing the facility, dismissed such concerns.
“Let me ask one question. Was this ban based on scientific rationale or ethical rationale or political agenda?” Mr Xu told The Telegraph.
“Legislation is always behind science. But in the area of cloning, I think we are going the wrong way and starting to kill the technology.”
Interest in agricultural biotechnology has been rapidly increasing in China, where farmers are struggling to provide enough beef for the country’s growing middle classes. Prices of the meat are said to have tripled from 2000 to 2013.
Mr Xu said his new facility will clone racehorses and a handful of dogs for people with “emotional ties” to their pets, but its main focus was producing cattle.