Friday, December 29, 2006

If Cloned Food Is So Safe.

The FDA has issued an opinion that meat, milk, and milk products from cloned livestock are safe to eat. The opinion or finding will become final after a 90-period for public comment, and then the door will be open to putting those products into the food supply. Food producers would not have to label their clonal meat, milk, butter, or cheeses, according to reports in the New York Times [link above] and the Washington Post, ostensibly because they would be indistinguishable from their non-clonal counterparts.

I don't know whether cloned food is "safe," and I'm fairly confident that no one else--including the FDA science panel and the cloning companies--knows either. Experts can surmise and predict, but they lack proof and will continue to do so until the carnivorous populace is turned into guinea pigs in a grand, deceitful blind taste test. Remember, many experts saw nothing wrong with feeding animal parts to herbivores until Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease started rotting brains away.

But even if they are safe, cloned meat and dairy products flunk my smell test, which says, "When in doubt, chuck it out.' I wouldn't knowingly but it. In fact, we already stick to organics in order to avoid mass-produced meat and dairy products. I would want to know what came from cloned livestock, just as I would like to know what fruits and vegetables are genetically engineered--so I can avoid them. Unfortunately, the FDA doesn't propose requiring labels on cloned food any more than it--or any other agency--mandates labels on genetically engineered produce. The agency's deny it, but they know that if those foods were labeled, consumers would walk on by; the way they eschewed irradiated strawberries.

That's the point, though. If cloned food is so safe and good, put a label on it--a big, bold label. The stamp can come from the Agriculture Department, since the FDA is clearly spineless on this issue: "USDA Prime Clone," for example. The people can then decide for themselves.

Lost in these discussions of safety is concern for the genetic integrity and diversity of livestock. Breeding practices are already such that popular breeds, like Holstein cattle, are losing their genetic variability. That's primarily because of over reliance on a small number of related bulls for breeding--largely through artificial insemination. Cloning will move that problem to another level and increase reliance on drugs or genetic engineering to correct problems that are bound to arise from a thoroughly 'inbred' population.

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