Sunday, December 31, 2006
Send in the Clones
It seems that U.S. consumers can expect to see more experimental technologies gracing their dinner plates, this time in the form of meat and dairy from cloned animals. Yes, thanks to the FDA, corporate lapdog - er, government watchdog - these products will likely appear on supermarket shelves without special labeling.
Does this make you uncomfortable? It should. As activist Jeremy Rifkin has pointed out, agriculture and biotech companies often shirk the burden of proof in terms of food safety, allowing the public and Mother Nature to serve as guinea pigs. While I'm not disputing the findings of these studies, a glance at their abstracts reveals very small sample groups. A study of pigs published in the journal Theriogenology compared meat samples from 242 clone offspring and 162 control animals and concluded that the meat was not chemically different. Likewise, a study of milk and cheese from nine cloned and five control cows found that "milk produced by clones and conventional cattle were essentially similar and consistent with reference values from dairy cows farmed in the same region under similar conditions," though the milk from some of the clones had a yellow or greenish cast depending on fat content ("Compositional analysis of dairy products derived from clones and cloned transgenic cattle," Laible et al.). Which brings me to another point - for most of the public, there's a obvious "yuck factor," not to mention religious or ethical questions, in eating meat and/or dairy derived from clones. A recent poll conducted for the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology revealed that only 22% of Americans feel that foods derived from animal cloning are safe. So instead of requiring labeling on these products so that consumers can decide for themselves whether to eat meat or milk from cloned animals, it appears the FDA will pursue the same course it has with plant-based GMOs, placing them all in the "Generally Regarded as Safe" (GRAS) category and leaving consumers in the dark.
The last thing that angers me about the push for allowing companies to market food from cloned animals is that this is not about making food safer or more healthful for consumers. This is simply a way for agribusiness to fatten their bottom line by treating animals as "units of production." According to today's opinion column in the Seattle P-I, this should come as no surprise, as "the plan is a logical extension of an industrialized food system that treats plants, animals and nature with an often-reckless disregard."
I hope you'll excuse my absence of recipe posts lately. I'll remedy that soon and share some of my New Year's food resolutions with you. Happy New Year!