Jan 17 2014
Some days one wakes up and it feels as if the world has inexorably become a little more strange - a little more surreal, as if Philip K. Dick took an apprentice who runs the tabletop game that we call our lives and they're starting to try things on their own. And it's delightfully fifteen degrees off dead center.
In China there is an industrial farm that not only raises pigs as food but clones them to keep certain germlines around. The company is called BGI and they've gotten the process of cloning refined to the point where it's methodical, repeatable, and most of all industrial. Their success rate is between 70-80%, which is practically unheard of in the field of cloning, and with two successful implantations a day, seven days a week, they produce five hundred cloned pigs a year. As if that weren't enough, they're genetically modifying some of the clones to add or delete genes - those which control physical maturation or susceptibility to Alzheimer's disease. The company also sequences and archives the DNA of certain specimens to keep them around for later. This represents a head-and-shoulders leap past the last Chinese biotech achievement, which was the cloning of a transgenic sheep which incorporates the gene for ω-3 poly unsaturated fatty acids, which would not only change the flavor but make the sheep's meat somewhat more healthy for humans to consume.
Their two basic criteria for determining which specimens to clone and archive? Whether or not the animal is cute, and whether or not it tastes good. Short, sweet, to the point, and pragmatic: Works for me.