are already involved in pet manufacture and sale, or at least
in banking genes (or taking cash deposits) for future manufacturing.
Savings and Clone (GSC)
aka ForeverPets, aka Geneticas
Pets, aka Transgenic Pets
The first two are actually selling products; the others are
marketing gene banking services or promises.
Genetic Savings and Clone
[Update: Genetic Savings and Clone closed in October 2006 due to lack of demand for cloned cats. In May 2008, a biotech start-up called BioArts International, in which both GSC's Lou Hawthorne and disgraced cloning researcher Hwang Woo Suk are involved, announced a new dog cloning service.]
The billionaire John Sperling (see here)
enlisted PR agent Lou Hawthorne in setting up Genetic Savings
and Clone (GSC), which sells cloned cats - and soon, they hope,
dogs - and "gene banking." GSC is headquartered in
Sausalito, CA, with a lab in Austin, TX, and a new facility
nearing completion in Waunakee (near Madison), Wisconsin. Texas
A&M University, with which Sperling initially contracted
to clone pet animals, no longer has any connection with the
GSC has sold two cloned kittens for $50,000 each (the price
is now $32,000) and made at least four more, from three other
"donors," all owned by GSC staff. They had previously
claimed they would make "nine lives" in 2004, but
clearly fell short; they refuse to say what their target production
is in 2005.
Hawthorne claims that the cat division will be profitable in
2005, dogs in 2006 (if they succeed in cloning a dog soon) and
the company as a whole in 2007. This does not, however, include
the enormous start-up costs. He says they have paid "over
$300,000" for cat eggs purchased from spay clinics; they
have also been reported as buying million-dollar microscopes
and similar equipment. Hawthorne envisages a multi-billion-dollar
industry in cloned pets, with thousands produced every year.
GSC claims to use a "more efficient" cloning technology,
licensed from the firm Aurox, to produce an average of more
than one clone for every two embryo transfers, and to be preparing
scientific articles for peer review. This efficiency claim is
viewed skeptically by scientists outside the company.
Hawthorne insists that GSC is committed to conducting its business
in an ethical manner, and points to the company's "code
of bioethics" posted on its website. He also says GSC is
"in a fishbowl," with thousands of articles written
about it every year.
Closer inspection of the website's press area, however, reveals
that this fishbowl is a rather opaque container:
"We strongly prefer phone interviews over on-site interviews
for print and radio. For TV, we prefer that stations pull from
our media reel. We grant onsite access only to our headquarters,
not our labs, and only on a limited basis to select broadcasters."
The GSC "code of bioethics" is a mockery of responsible
bioethical practice - it guarantees nothing except that they
will do what they want to do. It states, for example, that "Transgenic
(gene-changing) work shall be conducted only after a thorough
analysis of the respective benefits of the proposed transgenic
work versus potential risk(s). We intend to make this analysis
public." Similarly, the code of bioethics states that GSC
is "open to additional oversight provided that it makes
Ethical codes are meaningful when they are developed by a recognized
professional body that holds its members accountable, but the
GSC "code of bioethics" serves primarily as a public
In the early stages of the original attempt to clone a pet dog,
a reporter commented that it seemed to be a rather whimsical
project, and that "a little bit of that playfulness comes
through on [that] Web site." Hawthorne responded: "Yeah.
That's the main thing about the project. It's a fun thing to
do. It's neat." Hawthorne refuses to reveal how many animals
have died in the course of GSC experiments.
The company website is http://www.savingsandclone.com
Paul Elias, "California Company Sells Cloned Cat, Generating
Ethics Debate," AP, (December 23, 2004)
Howard Witt, "'Frankenkitty' or Priceless Duplicate,"
Chicago Tribune, (March 06, 2005)
Gersh Kuntzman, "Just Cloning Around," Newsweek,
(October 12, 2004)
Lou Hawthorne, interview in Japan Today, (November 05, 2004)
Wade Rousch, "Genetic Savings and Clone: No Pet Project,"
Technology Review, (March 2005)
Doug Moe, "Clone cats here? Sure, but where?"
Capital Times, (December 24, 2004)
Doug Moe, "Pet Cloner Says Dogs Are More Difficult"
Capital Times, (February 07, 2005)
Dan Vergano, "Refined Cloning Gets Whisker-Close,"
USA Today, (August 05, 2004)
R.U. Sirius, "Cloning the Pooch," Salon, (March
In late 2003, Yorktown Technologies of Austin, TX, began marketing
a zebra fish, genetically modified to be fluorescent, under
the name "GloFish." The Food and Drug Administration
(FDA) in a notably terse statement found "no reason to
regulate these particular fish." (This decision is the
subject of a lawsuit.)
The California Fish and Game Commission, however, refused to
exempt the GloFish from its ban on transgenic fish, initially
citing ethical grounds. In April 2004, the Commissioners backtracked
a little, agreeing that they might issue a permit if the company
could provide a convincing Environmental Impact Report (EIR).
At their October, 2004, meeting, the lawyer for Yorktown objected
that this requirement was proving onerous and expensive (an
estimated $100,000), and that he had the impression that no
permit would be granted in any event. He implied that the company
had decided not to pursue it. Fish and Game staff confirm that
no further action will be taken unless an EIR is submitted.
"The GloFish really didn't go through any federal review
process as far as I understand it. Everything that has an environmental
impact should have some sort of regulatory overview. Even children's
toys and children's clothes have that - anything that has a
potential of moderate risk."
Bill Muir, Purdue geneticist (1)
"This fish sets a terrible precedent.... What if someone
[makes] a piranha that could survive in cold waters, so aquariumists
wouldn't be impeded by having to buy expensive warming equipment
to keep them? Imagine then that someone accidentally sets them
free in the Mississippi."
Craig Culp, Center for Food Safety (2)
"GloFish is minor compared to what we could see in the
Scott Angle, University of Maryland natural resources professor
"This GloFish fell right through the cracks of federal
Eric Hallerman, Virginia Tech geneticist (1)
"What scares me the most is that if they start modifying
fish that turn out to be predators.... It could cause serious
Walter Courtenay, federal invasive fish biologist (1)
"Some people have criticized the commission for injecting
values and ethics into this debate. In fact, the Fish and Game
Commission has always dealt with ethics. It was created in part
to ensure that hunting was practiced ethically. We still grapple
with the issue of "fair chase" in hunting and have
rules based on notions of what is ethical in the treatment of
animals. I don't think that it is possible to make policy without
values, and I know that I would not want to live in a country
that divorced values from policymaking."
Sam Schuchat, California Fish and Game Commissioner (4)
(1) Steve Nash, "For Whom the Fish Glow: California rejects
GloFish, but the FDA says, 'Let them swim,'" San Francisco
(2) The Pitt News, (February 18, 2004)
(3) Griff Witte, "New Biotech Pets Make Some Uneasy,"
Washington Post, 03/13/04;
(4) Sam Schuchat, "Why GloFish Won't Glow in California,"
San Francisco Chronicle, (December 17, 2003)
"'GloFish' Won't Be Lighting up the State," Sacramento
Bee, (December 04, 2003);
Sam Schuchat, California Fish and Game Commissioner, "Why
GloFish Won't Glow in California," San Francisco Chronicle,
(December 17, 2003)
John Keilman, "Some See Fluorescent Fish as Neon Signs
of Trouble," Chicago Tribune, (January 12, 2004)
"California Reconsiders Nation's Only Bio-Pet Ban,"
AP, April 01, 2004; available at
Information Systems for Biotechnology (ISB) report
Transgenic Pets, then in Syracuse, New York (later in Colorado),
was reported in 2001 to be working with scientists at the University
of Connecticut to create cats free of the gene that codes for
the protein Fel-d1, which had been identified as a leading cause
of cat allergies. However, many scientists are skeptical about
the value of the project. Suppressing the gene may have other
effects, and removing it will only help a portion of those allergic
David Avner, M.D., who himself suffers from cat allergies, hoped
to raise $2 million to bankroll Transgenic Pets, and to sell
the modified animals for $1,000 each. Funding problems put the
project on hold for several years, but in 2004 the company incorporated
a subsidiary, Felix Pets, to develop this technology, in partnership
with, according to their website, "one of the world's premier
genetic engineering institutes."
Another company, Allerca, based in San Diego, sells a topical
"allergen control system" and in October 2004 Simon
Brodie, its chairman and CEO, announced that it was "developing
the world's first hypoallergenic cat, expected in 2007."
However, they must overcome a lawsuit brought by Avner, who
claims Brodie stole trade secrets and violated a confidentiality
Allerca was previously known as Geneticas Life Sciences, of
West Los Angeles, which in turn was the "parent" of
ForeverPet, which claimed to be in the cat-cloning business.
On its website, foreverpet.com, the firm still (in March 2005)
says that it "plans to start commercial horse cloning in
2004." Lou Hawthorne, of Genetic Savings and Clone, said
in February 2005 that ForeverPet was the only other company
in the field but "they have no staff, no facility, no technology
of which we are aware, no IP [intellectual property] licenses
and no IP of their own. So we question whether that's a legitimate
Allerca has taken $500 deposits from allegedly "tens of
thousands" of customers, and is pricing genetically modified
cats at $5,000-$10,000, or even more for limited-run exotics.
Brodie says, "If we reach production, it'll be $1.5 billion
in sales each year." He also specifically cited the GloFish
as a precedent for not being regulated by the FDA, the Department
of Agriculture or any other Federal agency:
"Obviously, things can change," Brodie said. "But
as long as people don't start eating cats and they don't enter
the food chain, then we should be handled like the GloFish."
Of course, California has effectively banned the GloFish (see
(transgenicpets.com bounces to this)
(geneticas.com bounces to this)
"Genetically Engineering A Pet? History Shows It Won't
Be Easy," Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association,
(January 15, 2002)
"Allergy Free Cats Are History," Sinus News (September
Brent Hopkins, "Hypoallergenic Cats Are Billion-Dollar
Market, Says Entrepreneur," Los Angeles Daily News, (February
Amy Tsao, "A Catfight over Allergy-Free Kitties,"
Business Week, (February 04, 2005)
Paul Elias, "Company Strives to Create and Sell Genetically
Engineered Cats Free of Allergy-Causing Proteins," AP,
(October 27, 2004)
PerPETuate, Inc. (Connecticut; http://www.perpetuate.net/)
and Lazaron Biotechnologies (Louisiana; http://www.lazaron.com)
have both been reported to offer gene banking for pet cloning
but how active they are is unclear. The Lazaron website was
not available when checked in March, 2005.
Horses have been cloned, but are not eligible for Jockey Club
"...[A]ny foal resulting from or produced by the processes
of Artificial Insemination, Embryo Transfer or Transplant, Cloning
or any other form of genetic manipulation not herein specified,
shall not be eligible for registration." (1)
This means that cloned or genetically modified horses cannot
enter the major races. These rules are internationally accepted,
and have been made even tighter and more specific in recent
years. There are, however, some dressage, show-jumping, harness-racing
and perhaps other professional events for which cloned or genetically
modified horses may remain eligible. Also, of course, amateurs
may have horses that enter no competitions at all.
Brazilian-born artist Eduardo Kac arranged with French scientists
to produce a fluorescent rabbit in 2000, as a provocative "artwork"
and conversation piece. Selling such creatures as pets would
certainly be covered by the proposed California law.
Mice have been cloned, modified and patented for research purposes.
Under the proposed California law, such mice could not be used
as household pets.
(1) Jockey Club Registry
Rick Weiss, "First Cloned Horse Created in Italy,"
Washington Post, (August 07, 2003)
Eduardo Kac's website is http://www.ekac.org/.
Laboratory mice are discussed in detail at this National Institutes
of Health site: