FDA approves food from cloned animals

Rick Weiss at the Washington Post has the scoop that the FDA has concluded that meat and dairy from cloned animals (and their conventionally bred offspring) are safe to eat.

I can't rant at quite the length I would like, due to neck-back-right-arm pain (no Digest for a while, sorry), but I couldn't let this go unremarked.

Weiss reports that the FDA's 968-page risk assessment includes hundreds of pages of raw data. I can't wait to read all of it and be reassured. Especially since in the end, as Weiss puts it, "agency scientists decided to use the same simple but effective standard used by farmers since the dawn of agriculture: If a farm animal appears in all respects to be healthy, then presume that food from that animal is safe to eat."

It's like pornography. They know it when they see it.

That standard was effective when we were dealing with animals that had been bred and fed naturally, not scientifically. I hate to be the one to point out that plenty of "mad" cows looked normal enough to be fed to people, giving them Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. And that we still don't understand the particles called "prions" that caused CJD or bovine spongiform encephalopathy.

So I find it unreassuring that in its review of the safety of cloned meat, scientists measured "vitamins A, C, B1, B2, B6 and B12 as well as niacin, pantothenic acid, calcium, iron, phosphorous, zinc, 12 kinds of fatty acids, cholesterol, fat, protein, amino acids and carbohydrates including lactose." I hate to keep invoking Michael Pollan, but one of my major takeaways from "In Defense of Food" — as well as from "Intervention," Denise Caruso's excellent book on how genetically modified foods came to be approved — is that "Scientists only measure what scientists can see." What other elements like prions is that list missing?

Ah, but never fear, the FDA also looked at long-term studies in which milk and meat from clones were actually fed to animals. They found no evidence of health effects, allergic reactions, or behavioral changes in lab animals that ate this diet for a whole three and a half months!!! What's the bleepin' rush, people?

I plan to ask Pollan at what point the governmental bodies of this country decided that industry's financial interests trump any risk to public health. Why are we so different from Europe in this regard?

12 Responsesto “FDA approves food from cloned animals”

  1. Oh, isn't it disgusting - cloned animals, like cloned or GM food. My grand parents farmed between 1900 and 1947 in Kent in the UK. They would be turning in their graves. I set up an Organic Website and became a member of IFOAM to help combat this in my small way.
    http://www.organicassistant.com/
    http://www.ifoam.org/

  2. Bonnie raises many of my concerns about this FDA decision. Here are some of the other things that jumped out at me in the article (quotes are from the Washington Post article linked to above):

    * "FDA officials have said they do not expect to require food from clones to be labeled as such, but they may allow foods from ordinary animals to be labeled as not from clones." The FDA acknowledges that cloning pushes ethical, moral and religious buttons -- and also the "WTF?" button -- but says that they don't expect to require labels. The FDA (or USDA) must require labeling so that consumers can be informed about their purchases. In addition, labels will allow regulators to track the food for actual long-term health impacts (i.e., years not months), allergies, and so on.
    * The caption on the photo says "The Food and Drug Administration has concluded that milk and meat from cloned animals, such as these cows, should be allowed on the market. That stance has raised a debate over whether food from clones that are raised organically could still carry the organic label." We'll need to watch the organic rule-making process to prevent clones from sneaking into the category.
    * "'Food from cattle, swine, and goat clones is as safe to eat as that from their more conventionally-bred counterparts,' the FDA risk assessment concludes." I don't know about you, but that isn't very reassuring to me.
    * I'm curious to hear how USDA -- the main regulator of meat products -- fits into this.
    * "Joseph Mendelson, legal director of the Center for Food Safety, a Washington advocacy group that petitioned FDA to restrict the sale of food from clones, said his group is considering legal action. 'One of the amazing things about this,' Mendelson said, 'is that at a time when we have a readily acknowledged crisis in our food safety system, the FDA is spending its resources and energy and political capital on releasing a safety assessment for something that no one but a handful of companies wants.' That's a good question. We have dangerous imports flooding into the nation, a broken domestic inspection system and myriad other problems, and yet FDA is working on clones? I wonder which political appointee pressured the staff into taking on this subject?

  3. Fauren says:

    There's something ironic about the Post and the Times both reassuring us that it will be a while before we see cloned meat on grocery shelves, when current signs indicate that we may never *see* cloned meat on grocery shelves. These preliminary decisions about labeling are so disturbing to me...

  4. Jen says:

    yet another reason to avoid CAFO meat...

  5. ExPat Chef says:

    Likely it won't be labeled, and as the RS article indicates, good chance we have already eaten it. More reason to pack the kids' lunch on "beef" days. More reason to get another split side of good old-fashioned cow ordered up this year. Just don't see the benefits of limited gene pools, though it appears to have happened at the FDA. If I ever drive by and see one of the staff members on the front porch with a banjo, well, we'll know why.

  6. This is great news for small family farms with beef herds.
    The family farm is going to have an agricultural renaissance!

    People will be waiting in line for beef made the old way:just open the gate and let the bull in :-)

    If this keeps up, pretty soon there's actually going to be a living to be had full time farming once again.

    All because the USDA and FDA won't quit messing with the nation's food supply.

  7. Important >update today, on USDA asking cloned food products to be "indefinitely" kept off of grocery store shelves.
    (actually, they posted it yesterday, in some form, even though it's dated today).

  8. Appears that the link I provided is broken. Here is the URL for today's Washington Post story...

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/01/15/AR2008011501555.html

  9. Lauren says:

    Hi,

    My name is Lauren and I work with the BBC World Service on the programme, World Have Your Say. Today we are doing a show on food, asking the question, should we create healthy food even though it is usually more expensive or create cheap, usually unhealthy food to feed hungry people all over the world. If you have an opinion on the matter, we would love to hear from you. Please email me at lin....@bbc.co.uk with your number. The show will be on at 6 pm London time.

    Thanks,
    Lauren

  10. Alan says:

    Henry explains also on its Spot this, but i "wont" eat cloned meat. NO!

  11. James Camp says:

    OK, here I am at the Grocery store buying a T-Bone steak to cook on the grill. I look at the meat in the case and there it is, the steak from the cloned cow. Wow that was easy. uh oh check that. That was the steak from the uncloned cow. sorry folks guess I was just a little confused. As Miss Piggy always used to say "I live in a world of embisils".

  12. Mara Haze says:




    Marc R. brings up a lot of good points.  How many companies really do want to be involved with cloned animals?  If there are so many "moral, religious and ethical concerns,” as the FDA has put it, how can we be marketing such food without extensive further testing?  Three and a half months?  Come on now.  “Those animals were made by scientists scattered among various universities and companies using different methods that in many cases were difficult to compare.  Moreover, many of those animals were not just clones but also had genes added to them for projects unrelated to food production.”  Are you kidding me?
    Other matters are further unsettling.  “They concluded that newborn cattle are often unhealthy, probably because of epigenetic changes. They are usually extremely overweight and have respiratory, gastrointestinal and immune system problems.”  That’s probably not a good sign…  “Cloned animals suffer high mortality rates and those who survive are often plagued with birth defects and diseases.”  How good are they to eat…really?
    The fact that the FDA only tested a limited amount of vitamins, fatty acids, protein, and so on in cow’s milk doesn’t mean they’re seeing the whole picture.  You can’t make such a bold statement so quickly when not all the parts have been taken into account.
    What’s more, we don’t even know if we’ve been consuming products of cloned animals as of yet because of the labeling system.  Although I agree with the statement by James Greenwood:  “’This steak’s father was a clone.’  ‘This steak’s grandfather was a clone.’  ‘This steak's great-grandmother was a clone.’  At what point does it become absurd?” I don’t think that any clone or clone posterity meat should be on the market at all just yet.
    There are just too many questions to be answered.  And why are we doing so much testing on clones anyway?  “We have more data on [cloned cows] than for any other animal that we eat.”  Why are we making such a fuss about this “new U.S. product that nobody wants.”  Why can’t we stick to the good ol’ days of boy cow meets girl cow, makes good meat?
    It will be interesting to see how this battle of the FDA and the USDA turns out.