China has cloned 3 'super cows' that produce more milk than average

5 cows lined up at feeding trough.
5 cows lined up at feeding trough. Johnny Greig/Getty Images

Chinese scientists have successfully cloned three "super cows" capable of producing large amounts of milk, state media has said. To make the calves, scientists "made 120 cloned embryos from the ear cells of the highly productive cows and placed them in surrogate cows," CNN summarizes, per the state-run Technology Daily.

The "highly-productive" source cows can produce 18 tons of milk per year, nearly 1.7 times the amount of milk an average cow in the U.S. produced in 2021. But according to the Chinese newspaper Global Times, only five in 10,000 cows in China can produce that much milk, and 70 percent of the country's dairy cows are imported from overseas.

"We plan to take two to three years to build up a herd comprised of over 1,000 super cows, as a solid foundation to tackle China's reliance on overseas dairy cows," said Jin Yaping, the project's lead scientist. The country's growing middle class has increased the overall demand for dairy, writes Newsweek.

But the real question here is whether it's dangerous to consume products from cloned animals. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, "meat and milk from clones of cattle, swine, and goats, and the offspring of clones from any species traditionally consumed as food, are as safe to eat as food from conventionally bred animals."

A drawback of cloning is that it reduces the genetic diversity of livestock, making the species in question more susceptible to disease and other issues. Still, "clones allow farmers to upgrade the overall quality of their herds by providing more copies of the best animals in the herd," per the FDA.  And it's not just livestock — cloning plant species, such as the giant redwood, has been considered as a potential solution to restore forests and stall climate change.

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