One of the top news stories in 2008 was the FDA approval of "food" from cloned animals. I usually only attempt to show the health benefits of eating a diet free from animal products and generally avoid lecturing on the moral and ethical reasons to avoid meat and dairy. This time, however, I seriously doubt that I am alone in my outrage over this, which not only brings up animal cruelty issues, but religious and moral questions, along with a vast array of safety concerns. This is just another sad display of the FDA's willingness to approve anything in order to line its pockets with money from the USDA and pharmaceutical lobbies. Time and time again, the FDA has proven how inept it is at enforcing proper research and testing into pharmaceutical drugs, and in many cases, thousands upon thousands of deaths have been the result. Rather than protecting the American public from cloned and genetically modified foods, which are being banned or at the very least, labeled in other countries, the FDA has given the factory farm industry the go ahead to sell meat and dairy products from animals cloned and/or possibly genetically engineered by humans.
Barbara Glenn of the Biotechnology Industry Organization calls cloning "a breeding technique that will improve the quality and consistency of food" (1). However, Michael Hansen, a senior scientist with Consumers Union, says that "data supporting the FDA decision are based on just a few cloned animals and include little information about their offspring." Hmm. Imagine that. The FDA making the decision to approve something based on little to no scientific evidence rather than on extensive research into its safety. Michael Hansen goes on to say that "The vast majority of clones don't make it to adulthood...There are a lot of sickly animals." Such health problems among clones raise concerns about animal welfare and food safety (1). I'm not sure that I understand how sickly cloned animals will "improve the quality" of food, but I guess we won't have to wait long to find out. According to The Wall Street Journal, some farmers have reported that the offspring of cloned animals have already entered the marketplace (3). But you would never know whether the meat you are eating is coming from a traditionally bred animal or a cloned version because the FDA determined that meat and milk from cloned animals and their offspring would not be labeled because it was "the same as conventional food and did not pose a safety risk," (2).
Despite the FDA's assurance, some companies have declared that they will not sell milk or meat from cloned animals or their offspring for fear over the safety of such foods, and to spearhead a possible consumer backlash fueled by religious and moral opposition to cloning. During a public comment period that ended in 2007, the FDA heard from more than 150,000 consumers who rejected the Agency's plan to introduce cloned animals into the U.S. food supply (4). Many polls show that the public's opposition to food from clones is incredibly high. A national survey conducted in 2007 by Consumers Union reported that 89% of Americans want cloned foods to be labeled. Additionally, 69% said that they have concerns about the safety of cloned meat and dairy products. A Gallup Poll from December 2007 reported that more than 60% of Americans believe that cloning animals is immoral. A Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology from the same time found that a similar percentage say, despite FDA approval, they will not buy milk from cloned animals (4).
There is concern from animal advocacy groups that the use of cloning may contribute to creating even harsher factory farm conditions than presently exist. "The surveys show that the public is morally opposed to cloning. Animals suffer terribly in the cloning process, and the FDA has ignored these issues," said Tracie Letterman, Executive Director of the American Anti-Vivisection Society (2). There is also concern that introducing cloned animals and the offspring of clones into the US market could have economic ramifications in the global marketplace (2).
According to Joseph Mendelson, Legal Director of the Center for Food Safety, "The FDA's flawed and cavalier approach to cloned food and its potential impacts called for a truly rigorous scientific assessment," (4). While the FDA repeatedly claimed that it conducted extensive, peer reviewed studies on the safety of "food" from cloned animals, it turns out that the agency's assessment only referenced three peer-reviewed food safety studies, all of which focus only on the issue of milk from cloned cows (4). The most disturbing part of the lack of objective research on the part of the FDA is that the studies the Agency sited were funded in part by the very biotech firms that produce clones for profit (4). Not one of the studies focused on the safety of meat from cloned cows or pigs, or milk or meat from the offspring of cloned animals, and there was absolutely no data on milk or meat from cloned goats (4).
Behavior like this is what we, as Americans, have come to expect from the FDA. What is supposed to be a consumer advocacy and safety watchdog, in actuality, is unethical and time and time again shows little real concern for the safety and well-being of the American public. The issue of unlabeled food products from cloned animals being introduced into the US market place is not only an issue of animal rights, but an issue of religious freedom, as those who oppose cloning for moral or religious reasons should have the right to know if the foods they choose to consume are from cloned animals. This is also an issue of economic stability as the decision to allow foods from cloned animals and their offspring into the market could very well create issues in the global marketplace. And then, there is the issue of the safety of foods from cloned animals, which we are still unsure of due to the FDA's lack of genuine and long-term research.
What can you do about this issue? Well, if you like the political route, you can contact your legislators and tell them that you do not support allowing meat and dairy from cloned animals or their offspring to be sold as food. Or demand that food from cloned animals be labeled as such. I believe that the best and most vital way to make your voice heard every single day is to vote with your dollar. By choosing to avoid purchasing and consuming animal products, you are sending a message. Remember, those with the money make the decisions. If you don't support what they are doing, do not give them your money! By eating a plant-based diet, you can avoid unknowingly consuming "food" from cloned animals. I really don't have much else to say about this, except that cancerous, diseased, pus-filled, antibiotic-filled, hormone-filled, steroid-filled, and now cloned "food" is what you can expect to consume if you choose to eat animal products from a typical American factory farm.
1. "FDA Approves Food From Cloned Animals", Webb, Sarah, Discover Magazine
2. "F.D.A. Says Food From Cloned Animals Is Safe", Martin, Andrew and Andrew Pollack, The New York Times
3. "FDA Is Set To Approve Milk, Meat From Clones", Weiss, Rick, The Washington Post
4. "FDA Approval of Clones Stalled by Passage of Milulski-Specter Amendment in Farm Bill", [http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/cloning]
Erin Brennan is a Raw Foods Chef and the owner of Living Bliss, a company based out of Louisville, Kentucky which provides fresh and delicious raw and living whole foods, event catering, uncooking classes and workshops, nutritional consultations, and wellness coaching.