"Attack of the Clones" isn't just the second-least terrible of the three "Star Wars" prequels. It could also be the motto of China's Boyalife Group, a company that is planning to open a human cloning factory in time for Kanye West's presidential run.
Boyalife is reportedly seven months away from completing construction on a huge plant in the Chinese port of Tianjin that could crank out one million cloned cows by 2020, according to an AFP report. Sure, you start with the cows, but chief executive Xu Xiaochun said he's also planning to move on to thoroughbred racehorses, police dogs and, along with its South Korean partner, improved primate clones for use in disease research.
So, where does the whole human cloning thing come into play? It's just a genetic hop, skip and splice from primates to humans, though Xu said he's aware that some people might have some ethical and moral concerns with making human carbon copies. "The technology is already there," he said. "If this is allowed, I don't think there are other companies better than Boyalife that make better technology."
Is Cloning Even Safe?
For now Boyalife is not dabbling in human cloning because it is "self-restrained" for fear of backlash, but Xu seems pretty confident that social values might come around at some point and people might warm to the idea of having more control over their reproduction.
"Unfortunately, currently, the only way to have a child is to have it be half its mum, half its dad," he said. "Maybe in the future you have three choices instead of one... You either have fifty-fifty, or you have a choice of having the genetics 100 percent from Daddy or 100 percent from Mummy. This is only a choice."
American Academy of Medical Ethics member and biochemist Dr. David Prentice isn't so sure. Prentice told MTV News that, at present, the idea of human cloning is still widely frowned up in the scientific community and the manner in which Xu and company are pursuing their goals sounds ethically iffy.
"Especially what they're talking about, which is not just cloned embryos for doing experiments, but they're interested in gestating to birth and having a live-born clone which is a problem for several reasons," said Prentice. "For one, we haven't even shown that it's safe in the animal community... to get one cloned kitty you make 200 embryos, some of them make it to birth, but a lot of them have problems along the way or they miscarry, are still births or have birth defects."
Aside from the expense and the lack of any real efficiency in honing the process since Dolly the sheep was cloned in 1999 -- and put down not long after, he said, because of a myriad of health problems -- Prentice added that there is really "no medical benefit" to cloned humans and a lot of "dodgy" science that often results in the kinds of defects seen in Dolly.
"To get a clone and make it to birth and be healthy is a rarity," he said. "It's not like the movies."