The Beijing University of Agriculture (BUA) has welcomed the success of a groundbreaking project to develop a more robust domestic meat and livestock industry by using cloned animals.
China’s first two genetically modified Qingchuan calves carrying adipocyte fatty acid-binding protein were recently born at an experimental base at the university.
“The two calves is the first step for us to study the possibility of supplying the Chinese domestic meat market with clone technologies,” said a team member involved in the project.
Scientists will now assess the health of the calves: “We have to wait at least 20 months for the maturity of the two calves and see if they can pass along the modified gene through reproduction,” he said, adding if the procedure is successful, it will be used to reproduce other livestock, such as sheep, pig and chickens.
He hoped good quality meat would result, adding that with the rising income of Chinese consumers, high-quality beef is increasingly in demand and using current livestock, “Chinese beef is not known for good taste.”
According to the BUA, the project, which started in 2009, aims to supply the Chinese market with good quality beef, which now largely is imported from Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Uruguay and Canada, according to China Customs.
From January to June this year, China bought 9,930 tonnes of frozen beef overseas, up 21% from 8,148.2 tons the same period in 2011.
If the project is successful, its supporters will have to work hard to overcome skepticism from the Chinese meat sector. Yu Linju, secretary-general at the Shanghai Meat Trade Association noted similar projects have been carried out in developed countries like Japan and the US, and have yet to transform their meat sectors.
Yu also warned that with Chinese consumers suspicious about the safety of China-made food, they would ask: “Is the cloned meat safe? Transgenic soybeans have already stirred concern among Chinese consumers, so it might be more difficult for cloned meat,” Yu said.
However, Guo Yong, the Dean of the BUA, has told Chinese language media there is no evidence producing meat from cloned calves would cause food safety issues.