Friday, February 8, 2008

Would You Eat Cloned Food?

Dolly: Next it was pigs and cows
On January 15, 2008, the Food and Drug Administration approved the sale of dairy and meat products made from cloned animals. This decision came after years of debate, and a recent study, in which the agency found that products made from cloned animals were no different than those from the original animals. Therefore, they concluded that consuming meat from cloned animals seems to have no adverse health effects to humans. As expected, the decision is already drawing criticism from some consumer groups and scientists, who feel that more research needs to be done. In other words, the situation is just as confusing as ever. Here's what I can tell you.
Even though cloned meat and dairy products are approved, this doesn't mean that we're going to start eating these products anytime soon. There is still a lot of work that needs to be done, and it will likely be a long time before the agriculture industry sees cloned meat as a viable product. There are now close to 600 cloned animals in the US (most of them cows), but one of the biggest hindrances to producing cloned meat is the huge financial cost. Currently it costs approximately $17,000 to clone a cow, compared to the $1,000 dollars a conventional cow fetches in the market. Because of the major cost difference, most of the cloned cows will probably only be used for breeding purposes.
If cloned beef becomes widely available for sale in the United States, according to the FDA, it will not be marked or labeled any differently. This decision is not the first time the FDA has decided not to label controversial foods; such was the case originally with trans-fats, and currently with genetically modified foods. Most industry experts seem to believe though, that if marked, consumers would be less likely to choose the cloned product on the shelves.
Regardless, consumers are likely going to be very slow to embrace cloning, which will probably further slow any changes in the dairy and meat industry in the US. So, right now, don't worry about whether the hamburger you're buying is from a cloned steer, because it's not. The FDA has said it's OK if it is cloned, but the meatpacking industry is far from delivering cloned meat to supermarkets.
So would I eat cloned food? Would you? Right now it looks like cloned food is not going to be any different, in terms of nutrition, and as long as it tastes the same, why not? The trouble is, this is brand new technology and studies on potential side effects of the cloning process, if any, have not yet out there.