It was perhaps only a matter of time, but recently a Californian biotech startup called Genetic Savings & Clone (GSC) announced that it was the first company successfully to deliver a cloned-to-order pet. A woman in Texas paid the company $50,000 to clone her cat Nicky. 'He is identical. His personality is the same,' said the proud owner, identified only as 'Julie'.

Nicky was cloned under the company's 'Nine Lives Extravaganza' programme which expects to clone nine cats as part of its initial feline cloning service. Dog lovers need not despair, however, since GSC is promising to launch its canine cloning service in 2005.

‘We had Smokey neutered at a young age. We wanted some of his offspring,' said GSC client Mary Ann Daniel. 'So when we heard about cloning we thought it was just the perfect thing for us to do.'

If you're unsure about cloning then you can also take advantage of GSC's extensive gene-banking facility - PetBank. 'After your pet's DNA is saved in PetBank, you'll have the peace of mind of knowing you can clone your pet when the time is right for you.'

This reassured Carol Meltzer who deposited her dog Lucky. 'When Lucky died, knowing that I had gene-banked him gave me some comfort. I knew that I had saved a little part of him that might come back in the future.'

If your pet dies before you are able to make it to the PetBank - no worries. GSC advises you to 'refrigerate but not freeze your pet' and then call a toll-free number to order a special BioBox to be shipped to your local veterinarian for collection.

GSC founder, Lou Hawthorne, is of course a firm believer in the technology himself and had his oneyear- old Bengal cat, Tahini, cloned twice. The clones, Tabouli and Baba Ganoush, are said to be perfect copies, though the eyes do seem to be slightly wonky.

Seriously wonders just how far Hawthorne is going to go. What can we expect next - Falafel and Humous?

New Internationalist issue 375 magazine cover This article is from the January/February 2005 issue of New Internationalist.
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