Chinese Scientists Say They're Ready to Clone Humans — "The Technology Is Already There"
Send in the clones.
That's exactly what one Chinese bioengineering company has in mind. The world's largest cloning outfit, Boyalife Group in Tianjin, insists they are up to the challenge of producing human clones right now.
Boyalife CEO Xu Xiaochun says it's not science, but the potential for an adverse public reaction that's stopping the company from going forward with the project.
"The technology is already there," he told Agence France-Presse. "If this is allowed, I don't think there are other companies better than Boyalife that make better technology."
For now, Boyalife is confining its activities to cloning cattle, with a reported 1 million cloned cows expected by 2020. Going forward, Xu, who previously worked at the U.S. pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, has designs on reproducing racehorses, that dog you loved as a child and even primates. From there, the human implications are obvious, and Xu is ready.
"Unfortunately, currently, the only way to have a child is to have it be half its mum, half its dad," he told Agence France-Presse, adding that he hoped public opinion would evolve on the issue in a way similar to LGBT rights, which have been steadily progressing in China.
Xu has good reason to fear a potential backlash. At least in the United States, there has been consistent skepticism about the science of human cloning. This year, Gallup found that more than 80% of Americans consider human cloning "morally wrong," and more than 60% felt similarly for animals. An aggregation of polls from around the world by the Center for Genetics and Society found similar results across Canada, Britain Australia, Mexico, Taiwan, Denmark, Turkey and the European Union at various times over the last two decades.
In addition to being a bad move in almost every cloning-related sci-fi plot, that skittishness may also have to do with how cloned animals have fared in the past. Dolly, a sheep and the first animal to ever be cloned in 1997, suffered numerous heath problems including arthritis and a lung disease that typically afflicted much older sheep. She ultimately died of the disease at six; a normal sheep can live to twice that age. In 2001, scientists found that cloned mice tended to develop morbid obesity later in life.
Meanwhile, champions of the issue frequently include the scientifically unsavvy, like the followers of French UFO conspiracist and religious leader Claude Vorilhon, better known as Raël. Vorilhon's cloning operation, Clonaid, claims to have already reproduced a number of humans but says it is committed to maintaining the privacy of the cloned individuals. According to their most recent press release, Clonaid is working on making another Michael Jackson.
"Michael was a visionary who wasn't afraid to embrace new technologies," Clonaid chief Brigitte Boisselier said in the release.
So while the debate over cloning may evolve with time, as it has for other social issues like LGBT equality and equal rights for women, proponents like Xu and Boisselier have a long road to get there.
But if it means the potential for Thriller 2.0, we're willing to wait.