Yesterday, the Food Standards Agency published its verdict on whether the sale of meat and dairy products from cloned animals should be allowed. The dispute over this issue broke out nearly a year ago, when it was found that some butchers’ shops had been selling meat obtained from the offspring of a cloned cow and had been doing so without telling their customers.
It was uncovered that several farmers had been breeding cows with cloned parents in an effort to boost productivity of their cows and their size. Some have also hoped to create cows with better immune systems. The cows who were being bred from clones were not receiving any form of assessments either as to whether they were healthy or whether their products were fit for human consumption, despite requirements by the FSA.
An investigation into food products from cloned cattle and their offspring was launched last year, and discovered that there was “no substantial difference to conventionally produced meat and milk, and therefore is unlikely to present a food safety risk.”
Yesterday though, the FSA stated that there is no reason for products coming from cloned animals and their offspring to be an issue and that consumers should “definitely be able to eat these controversial products.” It said that licenses would still need to be acquired though. However, once again, there has been a failure to look at the wider picture. ‘So long as in the immediate future, humanity will be better off, then it’ll all be fine’ seems to be the view of the FSA.
By allowing cloning into farming there will undoubtedly be a host of problems that follow it. Whether or not meat and milk is safe for human consumption is one issue, but the FSA seem to have completely neglected all of the others. My main concern lies with animal welfare. Once again, animals are treated as products, not as living beings. This isn’t like genetically modifying a tomato. A tomato is not going to suffer throughout its life by growing beyond its natural size. Meanwhile, cloned animals often develop health problems. Contrary to the idea mentioned above that cloning will develop better immune systems in animals, cloned animals often have horrific mutations, physical problems, and terrible arthritis. It is inhumane to raise these aberrations in the name of better productivity. Also, some of these clones are pumped full of antibiotics – surely there’s a health risk there somewhere?
But a bigger issue also lies here. Everyday, farming seems to become further and further removed from the stereotypical vision one has in their head. Nowadays, people don’t even tend to make a connection between the animal on a farm and the meat that’s on the plate. The world needs to be moving towards a greater understanding of what the consequences of what they’re eating are, but by introducing cloning into the mainstream then we are destined to move further away from this.
If you don’t know how cloning works, then read a little into it (you can watch a short video on this page). It’s an interesting process, but it strikes me as utterly bizarre and unnatural at the same time. It made me think of that scene in Jurassic Park, where they’re all sitting around having dinner and first discussing the park. Dr Ian Malcolm, talking to the park’s creator John Hammond, states that “genetic power is the most awesome force that this planet has ever seen, yet you wield like a kid whose found his dad’s gun.” I feel Dr Malcolm’s words ring true here too. Is it truly rational to accept this process into mainstream farming, just for the sake of allowing a few farmers to hold onto their prize cows for longer?
For more information on cloning and animal foods, please check out http://www.endanimalcloning.org or go and have a chat with Dr Malcolm.