US firm aims to clone 100 horses per year

However, the cloning technique is mired in public controversy.

india Updated: Mar 31, 2006 17:47 IST

ViaGen Inc of Austin, Texas, said it has cloned two cutting horses for $150,000 each and plans to develop its cloning business, over time, to up to 100 horses per year.

The first cutting horse -- a valuable breed used by ranchers to cut, or separate steers from the herd -- was cloned on February 19, the second on March 6 in Oklahoma, and more cloned horses are expected soon, the company said on Thursday in a statement.

ViaGen teamed up with another biotechnology firm, Encore Genetics, to offer the first commercial horse cloning operation in the United States. Their joint venture, they said, has led them to gene bank more than 75 champion horses of multiple breeds and disciplines.

Italian researchers were first to clone a horse in 2003. The University of Texas cloned the first US horse in 2005.

Besides horses, hundreds of sheep and pigs have been cloned in the United States over the past few years.

However, the cloning technique is mired in public controversy and most consumer groups are reluctant to accept meat and dairy products from cloned animals.

So far, animal cloners have voluntarily agreed not to market their products until the Food and Drug Administration issues its ruling on cloning, which is expected this year.

Based on a study of the American Adademy of Sciences, the FDA's science committee in 2003 said in a preliminary report that products from cloned animals are as safe to eat as those from normal animals.

Beside the public's rejection, food companies are unwilling to mass market cloned products until very high production costs come down.

A cloned veal calf works out at $90,000, compared to the average price of only a few thousand for a naturally bred one.

First Published: Mar 31, 2006 17:47 IST