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Food

Would You Eat Cloned Beef?

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It sounds like the plot of a Charlton Heston film from the 70's, but the possibility of meat from cloned livestock has become a reality.

The FDA just released an extensive risk assessment whose aim is "determining whether cloning poses any health risks to the animals involved in the cloning process, and whether any hazards arise during the development of clones or their progeny that may pose food consumption risks" (you can check out the whole PDF file through the LA Times website here). The LA Times also does a good job explaining the technology of the cloning process:

Scientists frequently point out that clones are not genetic mutants but identical twins of naturally produced animals -- just born at a different time. To make a clone, scientists remove the DNA from the nucleus of a normal egg and replace it with DNA from a prized animal. A tiny electric shock induces the egg to grow into a copy of the original animal. No new genes are introduced or modified in the process.

I have no problem with the actual science of cloning, and I'm not particularly disturbed by hysterical forecasts that eating cloned meat will turn our babies into one-eyed monsters. If this is a technological advancement that will truly stabilize the quality of our meat supply, well then, great. But why are research dollars being spent on cloning technology instead of on ways to improve the health and quality of life for the livestock we've already got? I have a feeling that cloned beef is just another tool in the arsenal of the meat industry, a "better-faster-more!!!" approach to food production that focuses on efficiency and profit for large corporations, rather than the health and well-being of animals, farmers, and consumers.