Safety of Cloned Animals
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has tentatively approved cloned cattle, pigs and goats to be marketed for human consumption. According a statement by Dr. Stephen F. Sundlof, the Chief of the Bureau of Veterinary Medicine, FDA, the milk and meat from cloned animals is as safe “as a food we eat everyday”. By Simon Shane
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
has tentatively approved cloned cattle, pigs and goats to be marketed for human consumption. According a statement by Dr. Stephen F. Sundlof, the Chief of the Bureau of Veterinary Medicine, FDA, the milk and meat from cloned animals is as safe “as a food we eat everyday”.
90-day comment period before policy finalized
The FDA has reviewed scientific literature relating to cloning research extending over six years which has culminated in an extensive draft risk assessment which forms the basis of the decision. In accordance with US laws of procedure, the FDA has allowed a 90-day comment period for both negative and positive responses before the policy is finalized. The FDA decision may be challenged in Congress, based on opposition from consumer advocacy groups who will lobby legislators.
Labelling food as cloned
It is possible that food derived from cloned animals may have to be labelled to provide consumers with the opportunity to either accept or reject individual products. Problems would however arise with processed items such as milk or ground meat where admixture will occur in the system of manufacture and distribution of food.
Livestock cloning opposition not based on science
Opponents of cloning have not been able to cite any specific scientific reason why food derived from cloned animals is less safe than from animals subjected to conventional breeding. Most of the opposition is based on entrenched principles against innovative biotechnology and intensive animal production and fear that cloning of animals might lead to extension to humans.
Irrespective of the outcome of the FDA decision, cloning is at an early stage in livestock development and will not contribute in any degree to the food chain over the proximal decade. Cloning will be a valuable research procedure, promote production of bio-pharmaceuticals and lead to improved elite strains of breeding stock. Proponents of cloning maintain that the technique is comparable to artificial insemination or in-vitro fertilization.
Food processing industry has concerns
The food processing industry including dairy and beef companies have expressed some concern over approval of cloning due to an expectation of consumer resistance. The situation is somewhat analogous to irradiation in which opposition is based on an inherent fear of new technology and is driven by lack of sound information and strident misinformation.
65% of consumers uncomfortable with food from cloned animals
The New York Times quotes the Pew Initiative
on Food and Biotechnology Survey which showed that 64% of consumers were “uncomfortable” and with 46% disapproving of the introduction of products from cloned animals on supermarket shelves.
Scientific approval does not equate to consumer approval
Genetic engineering offers considerable advantages to producers in terms of efficiency. Unfortunately the proponents of technology have ignored consumers and have failed to either demonstrate or publicize advantages in improved quality, safety or reduced cost. The multinationals responsible for introducing genetically modified seeds during the early 1990’s failed to recognize that the ultimate customer for their products was not the farmer but the consumer. Obtaining an approval on scientific merits from a regulatory agency does not necessarily guarantee acceptance by the public, especially when there is a well funded and active opposition lobby which distorts facts and denies scientific principles.
It is interesting that on the day of the announcement of the FDA decision, US and Japanese scientists reported the development of “knock-out” cattle modified by deletion of genes
coding for natural structural neural prions. Individuals in this small group of research animals, now aged 20 months, are obviously refractory to BSE and could be the progenitors of herds which serve as bio-reactors for bovine-derived products including serum and gelatin which are used in pharmaceutical products.
Consumers must be considered when marketing scientific advances
The implication from these recent advances in biotechnology is that consumers must not be ignored in the process of translating scientific advances into marketable products. Communication will engender understanding and acceptance.
By: Simon Shane