Send in the Clones!

For anyone who cares, the United States Food and Drug Administration has ruled the meat and milk from cloned animal to be safe to consume. From an article on NPR’s website, Cloned Beef: It’s What’s for Dinner?:

The Bryant Park Project, January 16, 2008 · Meat and milk from cloned cows, pigs and goats are just as safe as food from conventionally bred animals. That was the conclusion released Tuesday by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in a 900-plus-page safety report.

After six years of intensive research on whether meat, muscle tissue and milk from cloned animals are fit for human consumption, the FDA says they “are as safe as food we eat every day.”
The stamp of approval from the FDA removes the last regulatory hurdle to mass-marketing cloned meat and milk products.

In late 2006, the FDA released a draft of its “animal clone safety assessment,” which reached the same conclusion. But a final decision was delayed by strong resistance from food safety and animal rights groups, as well as the U.S. dairy industry, which fears public aversion to cloning for consumption could hurt their image and their profits.

In December 2007, Congress passed a farm bill that included a measure requiring the FDA to delay its final ruling until further studies and an assessment of the possible domestic and foreign trade implications were completed.

U.S. producers were waiting for the FDA decision, too. They agreed back in 2001 to hold off on introducing products by cloned animals into the food supply until the FDA completed the safety report.

Even now that cloned products have the FDA stamp of approval, it remains unlikely they’ll hit supermarket shelves anytime soon. Public distrust of so-called Frankenfoods and the high cost of cloning animals for food production will likely keep them out of stores for the next few years.

In the meantime, the FDA is asking cloning companies like ViaGen Inc. and Trans Ova Genetics to continue the moratorium on cloning animals for food until consumers can adjust to the idea of eating meat that tarted in a Petri dish. The U.S. Department of Agriculture also called for a hold on the distribution of cloned animal foods for the time being, pending consultations on how they will be introduced into the arket.

When the engineered products do hit shelves, the food probably won’t come directly from a cloned animal. Those beasts are more likely to be used as high-quality breeding stock. But the offspring of a cloned cow could certainly end up on your bun.

Is anyone else weirded out by this news? Okay, so the FDA declares it safe. Isn’t this the same FDA that had some hoopla not too long ago over children’s cough medicine?

Full disclosure: I’m a vegetarian. But I do eat eggs and consume some dairy products like butter and cheese, and I’d really not like for those animal products to come from cloned animals, no matter how perfect the egg is. Like the ethics involved in eating animals–or anything, for that matter–one really ought to know what’s involved in providing that vacuum-sealed packet of chicken or slab of steak at the supermarket or grocery store.

In this manner, I would say I’m against cloning animals for meat and products, as this furthers the idea that some animals are here only to feed us and to provide us with what we need, not to live their own lives in freedom or at least in harmony with our own. The final sentence of the Church of Scotland’s article, Should We Clone Animals?, summarizes this idea: “[T]o manipulate animals to be born, grow and reach maturity for sale and slaughter at exactly the time we want them, to suit production schedules suggests one step too far in turning animals into mere commodities.” A related article titled Clothing, Ethics and Animal Welfare is also worth reading.

Although I don’t eat meat, I respect the efforts of places like Polyface Farm, which kills the animals on its farms in humane ways and treats them in a humane manner. Cloning livestock seems far from humane from me, and to introduce this practice in an agricultural system that focuses more on profit than animal welfare is adding more fuel to the fire. If the European Union doesn’t want cloned meat in their markets, then why should we?

“The group said that surrogates carrying cloned embryos could suffer and that some clones themselves experienced a high rate of disease and health problems that include increased weight, malformations, respiratory problems, enlarged livers, hemorrhaging and kidney abnormalities.”

It surprises me how the FDA is ready to deem that consumption of cloned animals and their products as safe, considering the low success rate of clones.

Another article for you to chew on: Cloned Meat is Totally A-OK. No worries. It’s from the Slow Food USA blog, Slow Food being an international organisation that’s “a non-profit, eco-gastronomic member-supported organization that was founded in 1989 to counteract fast food and fast life, the disappearance of local food traditions and people’s dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from, how it tastes and how our food choices affect the rest of the world.” The statement for Slow Food USA is a little different, but I still agree with it wholeheartedly: Slow Food USA envisions a future food system that is based on the principles of high quality and taste, environmental sustainability, and social justice – in essence, a food system that is good, clean and fair.

Do you think cloned animals for meat production is good, clean and fair?

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