They say confession is good for the soul. Well, I’m a genetically engineered, dual-DNA-source clone. Some DNA from my father was mixed with that of my mother and, after an eight-month period in a controlled incubation environment, voila! One human being from the genetic material of two others.
OK, I know that’s not the true definition of a clone, but the point is, the FDA just released its decree that it’s OK to sell meat and dairy derived from cloned animals.
The public sees an “Island of Dr. Moreau” situation, with abominations of nature along the lines of living turduckens attacking children in rabid, in-bred frenzy; the farmer sees a way to perpetuate a desired set of traits and perhaps streamline and save money on several aspects of meat and dairy production. (As for creating herds of cloned animals, that’s still sci-fi: It costs about $20 thousand per animal for cloning; natural reproduction costs only the barnyard equivalent of dinner and a movie.)
The FDA’s announcement provided a double-whammy for any back-to-nature activist fearing Frankenfood. In addition to declaring foods from cloned animal sources safe, the agency also said it could not insist on labeling of clone-derived product because such product “is the same as conventional food” and doesn’t pose a safety risk.
The Agriculture Dept. asked for a continued voluntary moratorium on sales of the product, Connecticut Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro is introducing legislation to demand labeling and the Organic Trade Assn. restated its position that “meat, milk and other products produced from cloned animals will not be able to be sold as organic” in the U.S.
This followed a release from the National Organic Program at the USDA, which is responsible for oversight of the organic industry, declaring that “cloned animals, and their progeny, are strictly banned from organic livestock production.”
The Cornucopia Institute, Cornucopia, Wisc., in response to the FDA decision, noted consumer reaction would be negative (most consumers polled would reject clone-sourced product) and cited previous and similar situations (dairy industry adoption of synthetic bovine growth hormone rBGH/rBST).
But after hitting on these concepts Cornucopia dove right into a list of cases for concern (check them out at www.cornucopia.org), expressed umbrage and outrage etc. But the institute and other anti-clonistas miss or give much-too-short shrift to the release’s best point: Consumers vote with their wallets.
Congresswoman DeLauro, the Cornucopia Institute, the OTA and other anti-clone organizations should recognize enforced labeling or outright banning might not be necessary. Consumer response to rBGH/rBST drove up not only sales of organic milk but of milk proudly self-labeled as not containing it. Irradiation of meat, CalGene tomatoes and many GMO products failed to take off as expected for similar reasons.
I’m neither for nor against cloned animal products. The causes for concern I’ve seen are legitimate, but I also see much of the FDA’s point. My biggest concern is where such products will slip into the food chain without our knowledge. Not restaurants – they understand marketing better than many of us. I’m talking about our schools and other institutions.
This won’t matter so much, though, because the combination of informed consumers and savvy marketers will see to it that products from cloned animals are labeled whether their producers want them so labeled or not. Just as with organic milk, there’s a lot of money in selling the alternative to a public already predisposed to prefer it.