Recently, Northwest University of Agricultural and Forestry Science and Technology (China) has reported the successful cloning of 3 “super cows” capable of producing more milk than normal.
China is a pioneer in research in the area of cloning. In 2017, Chinese scientists already reported that they had produced cloned cattle that had greater resistance to bovine tuberculosis and last September they cloned an Arctic wolf from the oocytes of a Beagle.
The cows, of the Friesian breed from the Netherlands, were born and raised in the Ningxia region of China, in the north of the Asian country. These “supercows” are capable of producing 18 tons of milk, that is, 100 tons per year. This is 1.7 times more than that produced by a North American cow, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.
The project’s lead researcher, Jun Yaping, calls it a “breakthrough” that will allow China to keep the most productive specimens in a more profitable way. His goal is to create a large herd of “supercows” that guarantee milk production for the entire country.
Currently, 70% of China’s dairy cows are imported; In this way, the scientist estimates a period of two to three years to build a herd made up of more than 1,000 “supercows”, as a solid foundation to address China’s dependence on dairy cows from abroad.
It should be noted that the reproduction that resorts to cloning processes produces genetically identical individuals. This can offer some advantages as in the case we are discussing, but it also entails serious risks.
The abandonment of sexual reproduction supposes a reversal in the cycle of the evolution of the species. In it, genetic variability was guaranteed thanks to the combination of the gamete genome. This produced unique and unrepeatable individuals with increasing complexity and improved their chances of survival.
Copying the genomes of one individual to another ends the natural process of genetic recombination. This process increases the risk of a gradual degradation of the genomes and increases the prevalence of genetic defects that can multiply in the clones obtained.
The enormous complexity of genetic inheritance on the evolution of species should inspire prudent attitudes in scientists, in order to avoid undesirable effects that are difficult to control.