China to Clone 1 Million Cows a Year to Meet Country's Rising Demand for Beef
Boyalife, the first stem cell bank in China, is now underway in cloning cows to meet the country's skyrocketing demand for beef, according to the company.
The company hopes to initially produce 100,000 cow embryos annually ("more than 6 times the size of the largest American cattle farms," Popular Science points out) and eventually increasing that number to 1 million annually. The product could be available on Chinese shelves by next year.
Photo credit: Shutterstock
Boyalife's plant will be located in the Tianjin Economic and Technological Development Area, a government-sponsored business development park. According to Tech Times, the projected 14,000-square-meter factory will be built and operated by Boyalife, and roughly $31 million (200 million yuan) has been invested into the project.
Xu Xiaochun, board chairman of Boyalife Group, said that Chinese farmers are struggling to produce enough beef cattle to meet market demand. In 2014, a Rabobank report said that global beef demand growth will continue to come mainly from China, with its current population of 1.357 billion. China’s beef demand will grow an additional 2.2 million tonnes by 2025, the bank said.
In addition to beef cattle, the facility will clone animals including drug sniffing dogs, pet dogs and racehorses, Boyalife said. The center, which will be the largest facility of this kind worldwide, will also include a gene storage area and a museum.
“We are going [down] a path that no one has ever travelled,” Xu told The Guardian. “We are building something that has not existed in the past.”
“This is going to change our world and our lives,” Xu added. “It is going to make our life better. So we are very, very excited about it.”
This mass production of cloned animal meat isn't exactly new, or at least for China. The BBC reported last year that Chinese company BGI, the world's largest center for the cloning of pigs, reportedly pumps out 500 cloned pigs a year.
So will cloned meat ever come to the U.S.? Animal cloning technology has been around for decades. Dolly, the world's first mammal to be cloned from an adult cell, was born way back in 1996 in Scotland. Additionally, the U.S. Food and Drug (FDA) Administration issued a report in 2008 stating that meat and milk from cow, pig and goat clones and the offspring of any animal clones are safe to eat.
Additionally, as Fortune writes, "the agency did not mandate that food producers label their products as having derived from cloned animals."
Although "it's highly unlikely that you will see meat from clones at the supermarket any time soon," the FDA said. The agency anticipates that clones would be used as "elite breeding animals rather than as food themselves."
Incidentally, as EcoWatch reported last month, researchers all over the world, including ones in the U.S., are developing genetically modified animals, such as "double muscled" pork, pigs that resist African swine fever and cows that are born without horns.
Still, whether or not U.S. consumers will ever choose biologically tinkered meats for dinner, China's demand for beef and other cloned animal products could be a cost to us all—an environmental cost.
This Twitter clip from NowThis spells out my exact thoughts about China's enormous influx of cloned beef cows: Do we have the resources to feed all these cows? How exactly is the planet to sustain this? And how, I'm afraid to ask, will this impact our environment?
China is cloning cows to bolster its beef industry https://t.co/ecu2DndhyU— NowThis (@NowThis)1449037561.0
Laura Wellesley, a research associate at Chatham House, said at a press conference, “Globally, the livestock sector accounts for 15 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions—that’s equivalent to all exhaust emissions from every vehicle on the planet.”
Not only does rearing livestock produce emissions directly from animals—from digestion and manure, and from transporting animals and producing their feed—greenhouse gases are released when forests are cleared to make way for pasture or for cropland in order to grow animal feed.
Global demand for meat is expected to increase by 76 percent by the middle of this century as both population and incomes rise, Wellesley said, which means emissions are set to rise as well.
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Kevin T. Smiley
When hurricanes and other extreme storms unleash downpours like Tropical Storm Beta has been doing in the South, the floodwater doesn't always stay within the government's flood risk zones.
New research suggests that nearly twice as many properties are at risk from a 100-year flood today than the Federal Emergency Management Agency's flood maps indicate.
Flooding Outside the Zones<p>About <a href="https://furmancenter.org/files/Floodplain_PopulationBrief_12DEC2017.pdf" target="_blank">15 million</a> Americans live in FEMA's current 100-year flood zones. The designation warns them that their properties face a 1% risk of flooding in any given year. They must obtain flood insurance if they want a federally ensured loan – insurance that helps them recover from flooding.</p><p>In Greater Houston, however, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1539-6924.2012.01840.x" target="_blank">47% of claims</a> made to FEMA across three decades before Hurricane Harvey were outside of the 100-year flood zones. Harris County, recognizing that FEMA flood maps don't capture the full risk, now <a href="https://www.hcfcd.org/floodinsurance" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">recommends that every household</a> in Houston and the rest of the county have flood insurance.</p><p>New risk models point to a similar conclusion: Flood risk in these areas outstrips expectations in the current FEMA flood maps.</p><p>One of those models, from the <a href="https://firststreet.org/flood-lab/research/2020-national-flood-risk-assessment-highlights/" target="_blank">First Street Foundation</a>, estimates that the number of properties at risk in a 100-year storm is 1.7 times higher than the FEMA maps suggest. Other <a href="https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/aaac65" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">researchers</a> find an even higher margin, with 2.6 to 3.1 times more people exposed to serious flooding in a 100-year storm than FEMA estimates.</p>
What FEMA’s Flood Maps Miss<p>Understanding why areas outside the 100-year flood zones are flooding more often than the FEMA maps suggest involves larger social and environmental issues. Three reasons stand out.</p><p>First, some places rely on relatively old FEMA maps that don't account for recent urbanization.</p><p>Urbanization matters because impervious surfaces – think pavement and buildings – are not effective sponges like natural landscapes can be. Moreover, the process for updating floodplain maps is locally variable and can take years to complete. Famously, New York City was updating its maps when Hurricane Sandy hit in 2012 but hadn't finished, meaning flood maps in effect <a href="https://projects.propublica.org/nyc-flood/" target="_blank">were from 1983</a>. FEMA is required to assess whether updates are needed every five years, but the <a href="https://www.fema.gov/cis/nation.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">majority of maps</a> <a href="https://www.oig.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/assets/2017/OIG-17-110-Sep17.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">are older</a>.</p><p>Second, binary thinking can lead people to an underaccounting of risk, and that can mean communities fail to take steps that could protect a neighborhood from flooding. The logic goes: if I'm not in the 100-year floodplain, then I'm not at risk. Risk perception <a href="https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/ab195a" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">research</a> backs this up. FEMA-delineated flood zones are the major factor shaping flood mitigation behaviors.</p><p>Third, the era of climate change scuttles conventional assumptions.</p><p>As the planet warms, extreme storms are becoming <a href="https://nca2018.globalchange.gov/" target="_blank">more common and severe</a>. If greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase at a high rate, computer models suggest that the chances of a severe storm dropping 20 inches of rain on Texas in any given year will increase from about 1% at the end of the last century to 18% at the end of this one, a chance of <a href="https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1716222114" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">once every 5.5 years</a>. So far, <a href="https://www.rstreet.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/195.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">FEMA hasn't taken into account the impact climate change is having</a> on extreme weather and sea level rise.</p>
Racial Disparities in Flooding Outside the Zones<p>So, who is at risk?</p><p>Years of research and evidence from storms have highlighted social inequalities in areas with a high risk of flooding. But most local governments have less understanding of the social and demographic composition of communities that experience flood impacts outside of flood zones.</p><p>In analyzing the damage from Hurricane Harvey in the Houston area, I found that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/aba0fe" target="_blank">Black and Hispanic residents disproportionately experienced flooding</a> in areas beyond FEMA's 100-year flood zones.</p><p>With the majority of flooding from Hurricane Harvey occurring outside of 100-year flood zones, this meant that the overall impact of Harvey was racially unequal too.</p><p>Research into where flooding occurs in Baltimore, Chicago and Phoenix points to some of the potential causes. <a href="https://www.nap.edu/read/25381/chapter/4#16" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">In Baltimore and Chicago</a>, for example, aging storm and sewer infrastructure, poor construction and insufficient efforts to mitigate flooding are part of the flooding problem in some predominantly Black neighborhoods.</p>
What Can Be Done About It<p>Better accounting for those three reasons could substantively improve risk assessments and help cities prioritize infrastructure improvements and flood mitigation projects in these at-risk neighborhoods.</p><p>For example, First Street Foundation's risk maps account for <a href="https://firststreet.org/flood-lab/research/flood-model-methodology_overview/" target="_blank">climate change</a> and present <a href="https://floodfactor.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">ratings</a> on a scale from 1 to 10. FEMA, which works with communities to update flood maps, is <a href="https://www.fema.gov/media-library-data/1521054297905-ca85d066dddb84c975b165db653c9049/TMAC_2017_Annual_Report_Final508(v8)_03-12-2018.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">exploring rating systems</a>. And the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine recently <a href="https://www.nationalacademies.org/news/2019/03/new-report-calls-for-different-approaches-to-predict-and-understand-urban-flooding" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">called for a new generation of flood maps</a> that takes climate change into account.</p><p>Including recent urbanization in those assessments will matter too, especially in fast-growing cities like Houston, where <a href="https://authors.elsevier.com/a/1boBRyDvMFW6W" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">386 new square miles</a> of impervious surfaces were created in the last 20 years. That's greater than the land area of New York City. New construction in one area can also <a href="https://scalawagmagazine.org/2018/01/city-in-a-swamp-as-houston-booms-its-flood-problems-are-only-getting-worse/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">impact older neighborhoods downhill</a> during a flood, as some Houston communities discovered in Hurricane Harvey.</p><p>Improving risk assessments is needed not just to better prepare communities for major flood events, but also to prevent racial inequalities – in housing and beyond – from <a href="https://www.npr.org/2019/03/05/688786177/how-federal-disaster-money-favors-the-rich" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">growing</a> after the unequal impacts of disasters.</p>
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