Just Cloning Around

Lloyd Garver cloning
The big news in science this summer is that South Korean researchers cloned a dog. They created a genetic identical twin of an older donor dog. They claim their purpose is not to allow pet owners to reproduce their pets, but to use their research to help cure human diseases. But if you think that pet owners are not going to line up for "Xeroxing" their aging pet, think again. There's a company in Northern California (where else?) called Genetic Savings & Clone that's already cloning pet cats. If cats and dogs are being cloned, how big of a leap is it for people to clone their beloved Aunt Martha?

The South Korean cloned dog is an Afghan puppy. A Labrador was the surrogate mother. I wonder if they made the Lab sign a paper swearing she'd give up the baby even if she got attached to it. The puppy was delivered by Caesarian section, adding to the debate about whether there are too many Caesarians these days. For you dog owners who want to sign up to create a dog just like the loveable one who sheds all over your house, relax. It took these guys in South Korea three years, and cost about a million dollars. That doesn't even include the leash and collar.

Because of their unusual reproductive systems, dogs are considered to be the most difficult animal to clone. Apparently, cats are a snap. If you want to clone your cat, Genetic Savings & Clone recently lowered its price to a mere $32,000. That's $32,000 for an animal that doesn't even catch a Frisbee.

But will making a genetic copy of your pet really produce another pet with all the qualities you love? Most of us don't just like the way our pets look. We like their personalities. Is there a guarantee that a younger genetic twin will do all the exact same cute things that our beloved pet does?

When it comes to cloning, the big worry is always about whether human cloning is just around the corner. Do we really want to encourage a technology that will make exact copies of certain individuals? My feeling is that dogs might be the most difficult animal to clone, but people are the easiest. Our society already has too many cloned humans.