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Eat cloned meat? No way

Editorial for Jan. 24, 2008

The Food & Drug Administration says it's safe to eat the meat of cloned animals and to drink their milk.

In a lengthy "final risk assessment" that was released on Jan. 15, the FDA determined that "extensive evaluation of the available data has not identified any subtle hazards the might indicate food-consumption risks in healthy clones of cattle, swine, or goats."

Well, how about nausea? For many, the thought of eating an animal produced, essentially, in a test tube is sickening and we want no part of it.

But our government officials don't see any problem, apparently. Well then, let them eat it. Put it on the lunch menu in the FDA building's cafeteria and see how fast it sells.

Worse, at the same time they are telling us eating the meat from a cloned calf is identical to eating the meat of a calf raised on the open range of a cattle ranch, FDA officials say there will be no requirement for labeling of cloned food products. They are telling us it's fine to have cloned beef mixed in with ranch beef at the supermarket, and there's no need to be informed as to which is which.

In short, the FDA believes we don't have the right as consumers to know what we are getting, and we don't need to have any choice in the matter. An FDA spokesman claimed that since the FDA has decided that there is no difference between naturally-grown animals and lab-produced animals, there can be no requirement for any labeling.

What a farce.

If this is decision allowed to stand, it will be a big blow to our country's farmers and ranchers for two reasons: First, if our nation's food production process continues to move in this direction, eventually there won't be any need for farmers or ranchers -- the raising of cattle and sheep can just be turned over to lab technicians and bio-tech companies.

Second is the impact of the revulsion many consumers feel over this prospect. If consumers don't know what they are getting because there is no labeling requirement, they are likely to cut back -- or stop -- their consumption of milk and meat.

U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, an opponent of adding cloned animals to our food supply, put the FDA's rulings in a frightening, yet logical, perspective: "If we discover a problem with cloned food after it is in our food supply and it's not labeled, the FDA won't be able to recall it like they did Vioxx," she said.

Among the things the FDA scientists may have overlooked is that genetic diversity is a natural defense against disease and other afflictions, and provides herds with a defense against potentially harmful new generations of microbes. How much diversity will there be in cloned herds of sheep and cattle?

It's bad enough that a radical new concept in food production is being set on our table. But it's especially disturbing that people won't be allowed to know whether the glass of milk their son or daughter is drinking, the scoop of "ice clone" they are having, or the "clone dog" they are about to eat comes from a real, naturally-birthed animal -- or an animal created in a warehouse.

It's not really a surprise, but we can't trust the FDA to protect us. It's up to citizens to demand that labels be required, so we are not consuming substances we want no part of. Congress is listening.



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