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Cloned Calves Born in Japan

April 26, 1999

TOKYO (AP) _ Two calves cloned from cells found in cow’s milk have been born in northern Japan, officials said Monday.

The births last week at the Snow Brand dairy company’s research center in Japan’s northernmost main island of Hokkaido were the first ever using colostrum _ the milk produced in the first week after a cow has delivered, the company said in a statement.

The procedure could make it safer for animals to donate their cells for cloning, as the extraction of cells from milk does not require making an incision in the donor cow and reduces the risk of infection, Snow Brand said.

The cloned calves were produced by combining the nucleus of a mammary cell with an unfertilized egg and inserting the embryo into the uterus of a surrogate cow. It was the same method used to produce the sheep Dolly, the world’s first cloned animal.

Three cows were made pregnant through the technique, but only two succeeded in giving birth. One of the calves was delivered through Caesarean section on April 20 and the other was delivered naturally the following day, the company said.

Japan has recently been aggressively developing cloning techniques in order to maintain the competitiveness of its cattle industry by producing high quality beef at a cheap price.

A controversy erupted earlier this month after the government said that cloned beef has been on the market in Japan for at least two years, prompting protests from consumer groups worried about its safety. The government insists the meat poses no health threat.

Tokyo-based Snow Brand is Japan’s largest dairy product company, and has cloned several cows in the past.

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