Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Cloning. How far have we gone?  A woman, Bernann McKinney loved her dog more than anything.  When her black pit bull died, she decided to try to have him cloned.  She decided that no other pet could possibly replace that dog.  Even though it would take 10 years for science to catch up, and $150,000 later, McKinney found scientists in South Korea to clone her pet.  Are family members that far behind in our quests?

She came home with 5 cloned puppies.  Yes, supposedly 5 identical puppies.  They are the world’s first commercially available canine clones.  Refusing to transport the puppies in the cargo space, she spent an additional $20,000 to travel with one puppy on her lap 5 times to California from South Korea until all were at home in the States.  She is a extreme example that represents the intense and sometimes irrational love that humans feel for their furry companions. 

Some send their dogs to massage appointments, others carry them around in $10,000 purses, and a smaller and more bizarre subset of pet owners get their four-legged friends cloned.  Author John Woestendiek focuses on this strange group of people in his book “Dog Inc.” 

Remember 1996 when Dolly the sheep was cloned in Scotland?  It was big news and was the efforts from a bored billionaire John Sperling, founder of the University of Phoenix.  Over the years he has spent billions cloning a pig, mouse, a steer and eventually a cat.  Never a dog.  Why? Canines are by nature more difficult than other animals to clone because of their opaque eggs and due to the fact that female dogs go into heat every six to 12 months, unlike cats, who can go into heat every three weeks.

The Americans, thanks to Bush, couldn’t replicate a dog for 7 years of trying, but the South Koreans did  it in 3 years.  The South Koreans won the battle of the clones in part because of their lack of animal rights restrictions.  Now there is a Seoul-based company RNL Bio, that boasts that it will sell 500 dog clones annually by 2012- and is in the process of building a $5 million facility capable of pumping out 1,000 dog clones annually.

Back to Ms. McKinney.  Despite the fact that clones are 99.95% similar to the original, they found out that the copy will still “GROW UP WITH A PERSONALITY AND BEHAVIOR  ALL OF ITS OWN!”  “I have to say that cloning ruined my life” said Bernann.  “The puppies do not get along with each other and had to be kept constantly caged.  They all have health problems, ranging from stomach viruses to epilepsy.”  She never cloned her friend.

This story brings up the larger issue of wacky animals being test tubed produced in countries that often consume dogs for food.  What kinds of health issues are we creating now?  Maybe, George Bushes ban should have been taken and let nature do its thing.

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