Adorable tiny genetically engineered pigs can now be purchased as house pets in China.
A genomics research institute in Shenzhen, China, has been cloning miniature pigs called Bamas and editing their genes to make them even smaller. These micropigs were perfect conduits for certain experiments relevant to human medicine, according to the science journal Nature, and the largest they’ll ever weigh is about 15 kg (33 lbs). Most Bama pigs weigh between 35-50 kg, and normal farmed pigs are often larger than 100 kg.
Now, reports Nature, the research institute (BGI, originally known as the Beijing Genomics Institute) is selling some of these micropigs to people who want to take them home as pets. The announcement came last week at the Shenzhen International Biotech Leaders Summit in China, where BGI scientists said the initial price tag for the animals would be 10,000 yuan ($1,600). Sales profits will be invested in the kind of research that these micropigs were cloned for in the first place: studies of human illnesses that can be replicated in pigs.
Genetic engineering is used widely in agriculture, in plants and livestock, but it has always been a controversial proposition—and selling such animals as house pets adds another layer to what some see as an ethical conundrum.