How not to eat a clone for breakfast

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 2, 2008

I made my New Year’s resolutions three days ago, but after browsing a few news sites this morning I’m thinking of adding one to the list.

Much as I love milk and meat, I may become a vegetarian.

The reason behind that is I don’t want to eat products from cloned animals.

Call me old-fashioned, but I just can’t see why one would want to consume anything that comes from a carbon copy of the original.

Yet the United States Food and Drug Administration is now saying that meat and milk from cloned animals is safe, and they will likely soon allow the sale of these products.

What’s more, they’re saying they see no need to specially label these products as &uot;cloned&uot; so in just a few months you might be eating Clone-Grade steak without ever knowing about it.

Why is this a big deal?

Well, ethical and moral issues aside (as if that isn’t bad enough), it’s a known fact that many clones show evidence of genetic abnormalities.

Think of the results you get from copying a piece of paper or sending a fax. A copy is still legible and usable, of course, but it’s not as good as the original. There are subtle changes, which become more obvious if you make a copy of the copy and so on and so forth.

This isn’t a new debate. The FDA has been saying for the last three years that it would soon approve the sale of cloned products for human consumption. But last week, for the first time they released draft documents on the supposed safety of animal clones.

A temporary moratorium on the sale of cloned byproducts is currently in effect, but could be lifted as soon as April.

Many experts in recent months and years have wondered where the FDA’s motives lie in making such controversial decisions as this.

Are their reasons scientific, or purely political? Certainly the agency has overlooked a great deal of scientific evidence in this instance.

How can they discount, for instance, the fact that surrogate mothers of clones are treated with high doses of hormones and clones are often miscarried or else born with abnormalities and compromised immune systems that require them to need huge quantities of antibiotics?

Furthermore, according to the Center for Food Safety, imbalances in clones’ hormone, protein and fat levels could compromise the quality and safety of the meat and milk rendered from that animal or its offspring.

The National Academy of Sciences has also warned that the commercialization of cloned livestock for the purpose of food production may increase incidences of food-borne illnesses like E. coli infections.

Many people weren’t even aware that cloning of animals does exist so commonly, but hundreds of farm animals have been cloned in the last 10 years.

Cattle were first cloned in 1998, goats in 1999 and pigs in 2000. Also in 2000, clones of clones were made using mice.

Scary thought – there’s the whole copy-of-a-copy thing already in practice.

If other people want to eat cloned meat and risk themselves and their families, they can go right ahead and have at it.

I just wish the FDA would stick a warning label on those cloned products for the other two-thirds of Americans polled who said they were uncomfortable with the idea.

I did a mini-poll of my own right here in the News-Herald office and of the 11 people I asked, only one said he would be okay with eating clone-generated meat.

(Incidentally, his wife was also in the room at the time and she told him he absolutely would NOT eat it.)

Yet in a few months none of us might have a choice, if we’re to continue to consume meat and dairy products.

There is a public comments forum on the matter open on the FDA’s website for the next 90 days (until April 2), or they accept letters via mail. Just be sure to include docket number 2003N-0573 in your concerns.

So if you think cloned products are unsafe, or at the very least should come with a warning label, it would probably be a good idea to write and tell them what you think.

Otherwise, as one ABC affiliate so eloquently put it, you may one day be eating a carbon copy of the steak someone else enjoyed last week.