In 1996, the world’s first successfully cloned mammal, Dolly, a Finn Dorset sheep, was born. Dolly died in 2003 at the age of 6. Since then, advancements in genetic engineering, controversial as they may be, have continued with astonishing results.
Scottish scientists again made history with the recent announcement that Dabney, a ‘self-knitting’ sheep, was produced through advanced genetic engineering. Dabney has been genetically altered to produce wool in patterned alignment. When sheared, Dabney’s wool pleats itself into shapes that can be easily packaged and shipped straight from the farm to raw wool dispensaries or individual clients. The wool can be knitted into patterns more quickly than non-genetically altered wool, with unskilled workers able to produce the same volume that more experienced wool gatherers have produced in the past.
As a result, raw wool prices have begun to drop significantly, threatening the Scottish Woolen Trade.
The raw wool movement has come to dominate the industry. “It was the hipsters that created the demand,” said Trudy Fales, President of the International Wool Council. “They’ve revolutionized the industry. All those old sweaters, caps, and bags were more than just a fashion statement – they were a game-changer for the industry.”
“Since there is only one Dabney,” said Fales, “prices are probably going to stay high, until another litter of genetically altered sheep is produced.”
An anonymous source within the Scottish biotechnology firm that created Dabney said, “There’s only one. We’ve tried to produce more, but we’ve given them all we’ve got.”
Time will tell if the global woollen industry will be able to maintain the dominance it has held since the 17th century.