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Some years back, my father pulled me aside, Graduate-style and told me “Tom, I just want to plant an idea in your head: if you can ever invent something regarding dogs that’ll sell, we may never have to work again.”
Alas, for my family’s leisure and wealth, I have had no such insight. However, a biotech company in South Korea skipped past novel designs in chew toys, food, harnesses, and frisbees, and went straight for cloning. Their first cloned puppy was produced in 2005, but the process took hundreds of attempts and the founder was subsequently embroiled in a massive scandal involving his failed attempts to clone a human. In addition to publishing results that were outright fabrications (or close enough), he used secret government funding to purchase egg donations from his staff; he was stripped of his license, resigned his university post, and was given a two-year suspended prison sentence.
However, the dog cloning is apparently legit and the methodology has improved greatly since the early efforts 10 years ago. Now his lab can produce pregnancy rates for clones only slightly below what occurs in nature. And there are cloned dogs sniffing, barking, and bounding around wealthy Florida suburbs as we speak (there are also another 500+ throughout the world). The price? An even $100,000, which includes a guarantee, provided the genetic material is delivered to specifications. The real news here is that dog cloning appears to have crossed the threshold from proof-of-concept stunt into luxury commodity. And if the last few centuries have been any indication, yesterday’s luxuries for the rich often turn into everyday commodities for the rest of us.