Digest – Clones as Food special edition

This is a special edition of the Digest devoted to reactions to the Food and Drug Administration's determination that clones and their milk are safe for consumption.

Rick Weiss reports on the USDA's request for a "voluntary moratorium" on selling clones to allow consumers to adjust to the idea (i.e., let them forget about this week's controversy). One cattle producer revealed that he has been selling semen from cloned bulls for several years, and that "This is a fairy tale that this technology is not being used and is not already in the food chain. Anyone who tells you otherwise either doesn't know what they're talking about, or they're not being honest." (Washington Post)

Weiss also took part in an online discussion with readers at his newspaper today. One interesting revelation is that the FDA considers the six years they have spent on the risk assessment to be an eternity, and they are glad to be done with it. (Washington Post)

Despite the initial call for a moratorium, it looks like the USDA completely supports the FDA's assessment and is preparing to push clones out into the marketplace. "We'll be working closely with stakeholders to ensure a smooth and seamless transition into the marketplace for these products," says Bruce Knight, Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs. (USDA News Release)

Sen. Mikulski (D-MD), who cosponsored an amendment to the Senate version of the Food and Farm Bill that would require further study of clones before their sale as food, asked the FDA to listen to "their own advisory board, to Congress, and to the American people, who pleaded for more scientific and economic research before allowing cloned food on U.S. shelves." (Press Release)

Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan all plan to perform their own safety studies on cloned animals as food over the next few years. Since exports aren't expected for a while (Asia is the destination of over 50 percent of U.S. beef exports), they see no need to rush to judgement. (Guardian via Reuters)

The Center for Food Safety says that FDA is opening a "Pandora's Box" with their cloning approval. They claim that the review is incomplete and flawed, fails to require labeling, and does not require special tracking procedures for clones, (Press Release)

Reaction from food producers has been mixed. The International Dairy Foods Association supports the USDA's call for a moratorium, noting that many countries that buy U.S. milk products have not approved clones, and that the U.S. public's unease with the technology could reduce domestic milk purchases. Both pork behemoth Smithfield Foods, Inc. and chicken/beef titan Tyson have stated that clones are not part of their current business plans. Organic Valley milk and Organic Prairie meat said that the FDA has rushed to judgment and that they oppose the agency's decision. Nothing from the National Cattlemen's Beef Association yet (perhaps they'll have something in their weekly policy update later this week).

Prof. Carol L. Keefer of the University of Maryland, who was one of the three animal scientists who reviewed the FDA's risk assessment, sits down for an interview about cloning science. (Baltimore Sun)

Zelig Golden, an attorney at the Center for Food Safety, asks some tough questions about the health and animal welfare implications of the FDA's decision. Zelig also asks some important religious questions: “Will this be allowed in kosher milk? Kosher meat? What do our rabbis think? What about the eco-kosher movement?” (The Jew and the Carrot)

The Humane Society criticizes the FDA for not thoroughly considering animal welfare in their assessment. (News Release)

Farm Sanctuary and American Anti-Vivisection Society condemn the FDA's decision (News Release)

A round-up of a few blog commentaries on the clone report (Slate)

David Gumpert wonders about unintended consequences of cloning (The Complete Patient)

Straight to the Source: The FDA's official page about the risk assessment report and selected excerpts from the FDA's report (compiled by the Washington Post)


5 Responsesto “Digest – Clones as Food special edition”

  1. I made a post earlier regarding this subject and have watched the debate with interest. In fact its done us all a favour and confirmed that Organic Food with the proper certification as promoted by, for example IFOAM, is the only guarantee that its not cloned.
    http://www.organicassistant.com/literature.php
    http://www.ifoam.org/organic_world/directory/index.html

  2. Emily says:

    It wouldn't surprise me if we determine, years down the road, tat no harm comes from eating cloned animals, but that the real problem is the genetic bottleneck. We're already dealing with inbreeding and diminishing diversity of breeds; cloning is very likely going to exacerbate that.

  3. Indefatigable says:

    I don't see the point of cloning meat yet. What's the advantage?

    Cloned animals start as babies and have to be raised to the age for slaughter, like any other animals.

    We already know that clones can be prone to rapid aging since they get their genetic material from adult cells, and that means a cloned stud bull or dairy cow won't have as long a productive life.

    Even big agribusiness knows that genetic bottlenecking is bad, because that's happening to bananas (which are naturally able to propagate by cloning).

    How is cloning technology going to be advantageous, efficient, or profitable to farmers? Surely it isn't the cheapest way to raise animals, even in large-scale operations.

  4. Weatherwax says:

    The value of cloning is that it can be patented. The massive swine like Monsanto are already taking farmers to court if the Monsanto GMO corn is blown into a farmer's field and affects the non-Monsanto crop. A GMO cow could probably not be bred without paying "royalties" on its "creator."

    The ultimate goal is for a few corporations to own all the rights to food. They tried to get the "terminator" gene bred in--so that seeds produced by their proprietary plants couldn't be saved, and anything it bred with would become sterile.

    These greedy morons are setting the world up for a famine like no one's ever seen.

  5. Sara says:

    In reality, it is the genetics, not the meat that will reach the consumer. Clones themselves are extreme top-level breeding animals. They will be used for breeding not meat, so the impact on the food chain will be essentially the same as artificial insemination (AI) and embryo transfer. Even without a voluntary moratorium on clones themselves entering the food chain (which I think is a good idea, at this point), you have very little chance of ever consuming meat from a cloned animal.

    The genetic bottleneck argument, along with the idea that our entire food supply would be at risk, is also unrealistic. Cloning will only ever be a very small part of the reproduction process overall. Even with all the AI going on in dairy cattle, they still have an effective population size roughly equivalent to all of humanity.