21st Century Animal Farm

Jennifer Hudson CBS/The Early Show

When she lived, Zita the cow was perfect, a poster girl for Holstein cow magazines. She's enshrined today on her Maryland farm, but in her prime Zita's could produce twice the milk of mere mortal cows. So her owner, Greg Wiles, saw only one choice: to clone Zita.

In fact he ordered two clones of Zita.

In both looks and behavior, Wiles says, they are Zita reborn.

"My observation is both of them act and do exactly what Zita did."

Congress has put the brakes on human cloning, but out here on the farm, reports CBS News Correspondent Wyatt Andrews, livestock cloning is off and running. Farmers and ranchers are making perfect copies of their high producing milk cows, their prize bulls, their meatiest and most flavorful pigs.

Michael Bishop runs Infigen Corporation, a biotech firm in the business of copying animals. Infigen has cloned 250 animals, including a clone of a prize dairy cow, which brought an astonishing $82,000 at auction — before she was born.

Asked if he was amazed, Bishop said, "Not really. Cloning is a tool that you can use for replacement of animals that injured early in life or replacement of animals that have tremendous impact on a breed. I see this technology as somewhat of an insurance policy."

But like every insurance policy, clones come with risk. The latest cloning technology can produce hundreds of identical embryos, but only 25 percent of them survive. In other words, in 75 percent something goes wrong.

"There's several steps along the way that things stop growing or go wrong (and) not necessarily do we know why. We're trying to understand that," said Bishop.

In response, the FDA asked the industry to temporarily not use clones for food. Dr Stephen Sundlof says there no reason for alarm, but he wants a national panel of experts to say if clones and their originals really are the same.

"The DNA can be absolutely identical but other things can happen and we want to know what those other things might be," said Sundlof.

Infigen says its clones are true genetic replicas with normal meat and normal milk. Greg Wiles says the proof is in his barnyard. The government, however, wants more evidence that deep inside the perfect copies of life, there's not some tragic imperfection.
  • chris oregan

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