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.