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?