Attack of the Cloners…

I don’t know what it is, but every time I hear the word “clone,” it makes me want to giggle a little. I think it’s a nervous giggle…the stuff of science fiction becoming real. And, um, maybe making an appearance in our grocery carts. Really soon.

Cloning has become big news in the food industry recently, since the FDA ruled that meat and milk from cloned animals were safe to eat. I’ve avoided writing about this, mostly because finding and understanding credible sources about the topic requires a buttload of research. But Boogiemum stepped up the urgency recently, when she sent me a link to this article, which states that the FDA comment period about labeling of foods from cloned animals ends on Thursday.

I’m squeamish about consuming food from cloned animals for a few reasons:

1. It seems to sidestep the value of sexual reproduction, i.e. continual random mixing up the gene pool, which helps keep populations safe from diseases or environmental changes. These things might still happen, they might might wipe out some individuals within that population, but with good ol’ DNA diversity, they won’t decimate the group. In other words: biodiversity=healthy. Less biodiversity=less healthy. Cloning animals has the potential to reduce biodiversity. This might be a longer-term threat, but it’s a consideration nonetheless.

2. Although you’d expect clones to be perfect, in fact, cloned animals tend to be sicker and die earlier. They also have a high failure rate, abnormal gene expression, telomeric differences, and potential for freakishly large organs (which cause health problems). Remember dear old Dolly the sheep? She developed arthritis at a much younger age than is normal, and she died prematurely of lung disease. If you care about animal welfare, even remotely, then cloning starts to look ethically tricky. It sure does to the Humane Society. And to these guys.

3. I can’t for the life of me figure out how I would benefit from cloned livestock. I can see why a corporation like Viagen would benefit. But me? As an eater? At best — really, at very, very best — I’ll get a more reliable cut of meat. Maybe. But you know, I haven’t really been tearing my hair out over the travesty of unreliable steaks. I just haven’t. And you know, the truth is, I’m eating too much meat anyway.

So, if I’m not comfortable consuming meat and milk from cloned animals, the answer seems easy: avoid them. Except I won’t be able to, because the FDA doesn’t think they need to be labeled. And that’s where Boogiemum’s article comes in. If you’d like to express an opinion about the labeling of food products from cloned animals, you’ve got two days.

Just two. You hearin’ me? The comment period ends Thursday, May 3.

The easiest way I found that you can send your comments to the FDA may be via this page. It comes pre-loaded with a message that you can edit to say WHATEVER YOU WANT, even if you love the idea of eating cloned cows.

Seriously. It’ll take no time at all. Twenty-two seconds maybe, tops. Go ‘head. Go on now. Clickie clickie. Go.

Your reward? A little levity. And I’m not talkin’ my reflexive clone-induced nervous giggle, either. Check out The Daily Show’s take on the topic, which you can view here. Oh, yeah, and while you’re at it? Check out Ben and Jerry’s thoughts on the whole thing, including their cow cloning song, crooned by George the Cow.

Because maybe, after thinking about cloned animals with gargantuan-sized organs, all aging rapid-speed, you might be ready for a laugh.

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12 Responses to “Attack of the Cloners…”

  1. 1 frugalmom May 1, 2007 at 3:26 pm

    I do not like green eggs and ham.

    I have sent in my letter. And I have sent emails to many others asking them to do the same.

  2. 2 pnuts mama May 1, 2007 at 6:23 pm

    what frugalmom said. loudly.

  3. 3 boogiemum May 1, 2007 at 7:37 pm

    Thanks for posting about this important subject. I knew you would put up a way better post than I could myself addressing this issue. I was so right!

  4. 4 Kai May 2, 2007 at 3:02 pm

    I sent my letter yesterday too. Its alarming to think they wouldn’t label food from cloned animals. Thanks for yet another great post!

  5. 5 ExPat Chef May 2, 2007 at 5:13 pm

    If you want to learn more, the actual documents and information are linked to from a post back in the kithen. Thanks, Ali, for the reminder on the deadline and link! I had filed it away and forgotten the date! My poor overloaded brain, definitely not an “oversized organ.” just overcrowded. Here’s the link:

  6. 6 baba May 2, 2007 at 6:26 pm

    sent in my note as well. wish it would have an effect.

  7. 7 Julie May 2, 2007 at 8:32 pm

    Thanks for the heads up — I just sent mine. The B&J page also has a link to a letter on the Center for Food Safety site that you can send to your congressperson/senator, urging them to support a bill requiring labeling of cloned products.


  8. 8 Jenn May 2, 2007 at 8:51 pm

    Ew! Just…ew! And ew! Ew! What the hell is this world coming to? I think of the people who cooked in our kitchen 100 years ago and I wonder what they would have to say about cloned meat products and hormone- and melamine-laced foodstuffs. Crikey.

  9. 9 the Mater May 3, 2007 at 2:40 am

    Oh my how appalling
    The sky is falling
    Can we trust what’s bred in the bone
    And what about an ice-cream clone?!

  10. 10 Carly May 4, 2007 at 1:52 am

    Thanks for the link, Ali! I sent my letter.
    Oh, and thanks for the roasted rhubarb recipe, too. The 3 year old said, “I LOVE it!”

  11. 11 DWPittelli May 5, 2007 at 2:35 am

    I agree the matter seems distasteful, and it may lead to increased risk of pandemic. Remember that in the plant world, where cloning is trivially easy, cloning has led to such problems of group susceptibility, including the Irish potato famine. And of course, diseased animals could make people sick, especially for meats like beef that are often cooked rare. That said, I don’t believe there could be a risk to you from eating animals with shortened telomeres or defective proteins, etc.

    Fortunately, it seems, they are not likely to be using this technology for the animals that you eat, precisely because it is expensive and does lead to sickly animals. Where they might use it is in cloning the champion stud animals, to get more genetically superior sperm (and ova/wombs), to breed the animals that you eat. These bulls would only have to be healthy enough to create sperm. The process would be similar to the F1 hybrid plants and seed you can buy, where the grower has two strains of not-very-vigorous generally-inbred parent plants, which they cross to make the seed which grows into the tomatoes you eat. This still presents ethical problems of the sort we have increasingly seen in factory farming. (Bad enough the tasty veal calf didn’t have room to move around, how about when the animals are too weak to walk anyway?)

  1. 1 My first boss, and what she had in common with a cloned cow…or a mad one « The Cleaner Plate Club Trackback on January 18, 2008 at 7:25 pm
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