Will consumers go for cloned meat?
Jaime LujÃ¡n Zilbermann
Very soon now, probably before the end of the year,
the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will give its final decision as to
whether the consumption of meat from cloned animals is safe. It is widely
accepted by most pundits that the decision will allow the sale of these products
Very soon now, probably before the end of the year, the US Food and Drug
Administration (FDA) will give its final decision as to whether the consumption
of meat from cloned animals is safe. It is widely accepted by most pundits that
the decision will allow the sale of these products to consumers.
Scientifically speaking, cloning animals should not make a difference as to
whether their meat is safe or not as long as the original animal itself is safe
to eat. And although it would certainly make sense to clone an animal with
excellent meat quality, we're not quite there yet, technologically speaking.
Even though it is possible, the technique remains too expensive to be used
widely. But once these technological and legal hurdles are out of the way (I
won't go into the ethics of the matter), there still remains the most important
question, at least in the case of poultry processorsâ€¦ will consumers go for
Two interesting pieces of information came to light recently. First, the
California Senate "passed a bill that would require all packages
containing product from a cloned animal to be labelled as such
according to Meatingplace.com (membership required). Although the bill has yet
to be signed by the state governor, it does imply that California's legislature
considers it a given that the FDA will consider cloned meat safe. Furthermore,
by acting pre-emptively, the bill's creators believe that consumers will want to
be informed of what they're buying.
But will they?
That is one crystal ball that is very hard to peer into, which leads us to
that second piece of information: the results of an assessment of consumer attitudes toward food
commissioned by the International Food Information
Council (IFIC). Their numbers show
that 22% of respondents held a favourable view of the use of "animal cloning",
and that the percentage jumps to 46% if the FDA determines that foods from
cloned animals are safe.
The implication of these results is that consumers, in the US at least, have
a lot of faith in their government and their food supply and would be very
likely to accept cloned meat.
Could something else be done to nudge that percentage up to say
A good marketing strategy could help, but might be tricky as it could easily
backfire, with consumer-citizens making the meat industry, as a whole, a very
easy target. Another way out would be to enlist the government for help in
supporting the consumption of cloned meat, probably a safer route.
It remains to be seen what exactly will happen, but it will all certainly
make for interesting outcomes.
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