My pesky job caused me to miss some huge breaking news today. The USDA has apparently decided that whatever the FDA might say about meat and dairy from cloned animals being just the same as that from two parents, it's not close enough to be labeled "organic."
Sam Fromartz, the author of "Organic, Inc." who blogs over at Gristmill (if only we had something stronger than admiration to lure him here with), noticed that the USDA's National Organic Program (NOP) posted a little Q&A today:
Recently, FDA announced its approval of a draft risk assessment of cloning as a production technique in agriculture. Since that announcement, many questions have been raised about cloning and animals produced using cloning technology (called clones) respecting organic production and their allowance under the National Organic Program (NOP) regulations. The following questions and answers explain the position of the NOP regarding cloning and animals produced using cloning technology for organic livestock production.
Q. Is cloning as a livestock production practice allowed under the NOP regulations?
A. No. Cloning as a production method is incompatible with the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) and is prohibited under the NOP regulations.
Q. May animals produced using cloning technology, or clones, be considered organic under the NOP regulations?
A. No. Animals produced using cloning technology are incompatible with OFPA and cannot be considered organic under the NOP regulations.
Q. What about the progeny of animals produced using cloning technology, or clones – can they be organic under the NOP regulations in organic livestock production?
A. AMS intends to work with the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) to develop a rulemaking proposal to determine the organic status of the progeny of animals derived using cloning technology, or clones.
While this is obviously a huge relief for concerned eaters, that last statement is still cause for concern.
Most news reports have indicated that the majority of cloned animals will be used as breeders — it's so expensive that for now, the only reason a farmer would go to the trouble would be to clone a prize-winning fat-marbled bull or champion milk-producing cow.
Tracking the progeny of these cloned animals is going to be really, really difficult (and chances are that they're already in the food system). Paradoxically, the National Animal Identification System that the USDA is pushing as an aid to controlling disease outbreaks, would be the best way to track the children of clones. But small farmers are resisting NAIS as expensive and onerous. Should be interesting to hear how the organic status of cloned progeny gets determined.
And just in case you don't think it should be in the food supply period — under the organic label or the Tyson Foods label — there's still plenty of time to tell the FDA so. Corn Maven explains how.