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Bacon-Flavored Progress
China Pioneers Factory Cloning

A Chinese company is mass producing cloned pigs at an unprecedented pace, hinting at what may be the future of how we source our meat and test our medical products. The Beijing Genomic Institute (BGI) is cloning 500 pigs a year at a facility in rural China, and these pigs could be very good for our health, for once. The BBC reports:

The point of the work is to use pigs to test out new medicines. Because they are so similar genetically to humans, pigs can serve as useful “models”. So modifying their genes to give them traits can aid that process.

One batch of particularly small pigs has had a growth gene removed – they stopped growing at the age of one. Others have had their DNA tinkered with to try to make them more susceptible to Alzheimer’s.

BGI is also the undisputed world leader in genomic sequencing, and in addition to identifying genetic markers for diseases, they’re also working to produce bigger, better tasting pigs. As BGI’s co-founder Wang Jun put it, “if it tastes good you should sequence it.”

It seems we might be eating tastier, low-fat, lab-grown pork some time in the near future. That may offend some green sensibilities of what is “natural” and what isn’t, but scientific advances like the ones taking place in this Chinese cloning factory are going to help feed more people with less.

As for demand for cloned meat, we’re not too worried. Build a tastier cut of bacon, and the world will beat a path to your door.

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  • Fat_Man

    This is clearly for using pigs as animal models in biomedical research. Cloning them reduces the genetic variation that would otherwise cloud double blind trials. Much the same has been done with mice via more conventional breeding techniques, but pigs are better models.

    OTOH, it is of very limited if any value for commercial meat production. The techniques are undoubtedly far to expensive for that purpose.

  • Jim__L

    The idea that lab-grown pork will be cheaper than farm-raised pork may be more than a little optimistic.

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