Wednesday, January 16, 2008

And why is local eating so popular these days?

We've been hearing a lot over the past few months about the FDA deciding whether or not to approve cloning of food animals, and according to the Washington Post they've decided to approve it. Whether or not they'll require labelling of such animals is not yet decided, but is unlikely as the FDA only requires food labelling when the use of a new biotechnology introduces an allergen.

Which leaves us with a further question: will farmers who choose not to use cloned animals be allowed to label their products as uncloned? It seems a silly question -- shouldn't it be a farmer's right to point this out? Shouldn't it be a consumer's right to know? But in light of Monsanto's campaign to get lawmakers to make such labels illegal (and lawmakers' inability to resist such campaigns), obviously it's not silly at all. The USDA has said it agrees with the FDA that cloned animals pose no safety concerns and that they'll be

"...working closely with stakeholders to ensure a smooth and seamless transition into the marketplace for these products."

For 'stakeholders' read Big Ag. And when it comes to making decisions about our food, money talks and Big Ag generally wins. Your best bet? Buy your meat from a small farmer who is raising his cows the old-fashioned way. If he is using artificial insemination (and even many small farmers do, because keeping a bull is no easy task) ask him whether the semen is from cloned animals.


Matthew said...

Hi Val,
I'm curious, and asking genuinely, what if by some cloning machinations local meat could be produced with greater ease, thus both making local food easier for people to obtain and possibly cheaper? Is there something inherent to the cloning that makes the food lower quality or is the stance against cloned food more of an ethical/moral question?

valereee said...

Hi, Matthew! For me it's both. The government telling us that there's no safety risk doesn't reassure me -- I've seen too many things declared safe to eat that are later found not to be. One of the reasons we're being told that cloning is a good idea is that it will allow us to produce a sort of superanimal that is resistant to certain diseases -- but the flip side of that is that maybe this superanimal is MORE vulnerable to other diseases. Even intensive breeding can cause an animal to be vulnerable to certain things -- ask any vet about hip dysplasia in German Shepherds and similar issues with many other inbred breeds. These superanimals will all be related to one another -- never a good thing. And in general, for the cow's sake I think cows should be raised the way cows are intended to be raised.

That said, I think it should be a matter of choice. I don't want to eat cloned animals, but I also don't want to tell any farmer that he =can't= use the technology. I just want to know about it so I can make an informed choice.