Cloned Animals Are Identical Twins
A cloned animal is simply an identical twin….just born at a later place in time. Yes, that’s right…..it’s that simple. Oh sure, there are scientific terms that are used to describe the technology, like SCNT – somatic cell nuclear transfer, but the fact is, it simply is the method animal breeders use to make a genetic twin to the very best animal they have ever owned.
So if I were you I would ask “What things around us are cloned….besides credit cards?” This may surprise you, but many of the things you see, or eat, or touch everyday are actually clones. Let’s start with something we can all relate to. Did you eat an apple or a banana, or even a potato today? Yep, you guessed it. Virtually all fruit is “cloned” because it is not grown from seed. Cloning means the genetics of the offspring are identical to the parent. For fruit, this has been the means of propagation for centuries.
If you plant the seeds from say, an apple variety that you particularly enjoy – several years later you will be disappointed to find that the fruit is not at all like the one you originally ate. It will probably be more like a crab apple. People long ago discovered that desirable specimens must be propagated by rooting, grafting, or budding onto some other root stock, and all of those are means of cloning.
Cloning for… Margaritas?
For my adult audience….do you enjoy a good margarita? You may ask “What can that possibly have to do with cloning?” Actually….a lot, if you are an agave plant farmer. The very best agave plants in the world are used to make “top shelf” tequila. Especially the blue agave plants. But they are hard to come by. So the agave plant farmers, in a stroke of genius, have figured out that they need to produce many blue agave plants that are all identical, so they clone the very best agave plants they can find, to consistently produce a high quality product, and make your margarita experience delightful.
Have you ever received a beautiful bouquet of one dozen identical red roses? You probably wondered, how do they find roses that are all the same? Every flower is beautiful and perfect. By now you have probably figured out the answer is cloning. They take the most beautiful flower, and produce little flower clones to it in order to make a consistent experience for you, and other flower lovers around the world, each time you receive them.
So How Do Breeders Use Livestock Cloning Today?
Livestock breeders clone livestock today to produce an identical twin to the very best cow, or bull or sow or boar…they have ever had the privilege to own. All of them have the same end in mind. They want to make “once in a lifetime…..twice in a lifetime”, or maybe more. Perhaps they need the twins to carry on an outstanding genetic line that has contributed greatly to their success. Or maybe they wish to replace an animal that died young…before it had influenced the genetics in their breeding program. Or perhaps they wish to produce a breeding stallion, from a champion gelding (castrated male). Whatever the need, progressive farmers and ranchers regularly use cloning as part of the reproductive toolbox for their breeding program. And like my Grandfather and Grandmother…..their goal is to “make more of a really good thing”.
It’s In My Agricultural Roots
How do I know so much about cloning? Believe it or not, I actually come from a long line of cloners. My Grandfather, who was a farmer, regularly grafted branches of the very best apple trees onto other apple trees. My Grandmother, and my Mother after her, took a small piece of a particularly wonderful Christmas cactus, and faithfully replanted a small sprig of that cactus every year. Seventy years later, a clone to that original Christmas cactus sits in a place of prominence in my home, to remind me of my wonderful grandparents who instilled a love of agriculture in my heart and who were utilizing the technology to produce “more of a really good thing” long ago. In fact, many of my many aunts and uncles, and cousins and second cousins……all have a clone of Grandmother’s Christmas cactus. And in a celebration of technology, I share photos of the Christmas cactus clones blooming every Christmas, using my smart phone to take the photo, that I share on Facebook.
Posted by Diane Broek.