The FDA has announced that it has deemed meat from cloned animals safe for human consumption. I didn’t know that the FDA was even considering this, but when I read some different responses to the news, I wasn’t all that surprised. Biotech companies rejoiced–after all, why bother with a potential profit-reducer like breeding when you can clone the same animal (and of course its quality of meat) over and over again. Consumer groups criticized the decision (pdf), saying that cloned meat might be dangerous to eat.
But to me it seems that cloned meat would be equally as safe to the consumer as non-cloned meat. In fact, it would be indistinguishable due to the nature of cloning, which is essentially making an exact copy. This was exactly the FDA’s rationale for approving the meat for consumption. But just because something is safe to eat in the short term doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. Did the FDA consider the effects on biodiversity–the fact that a herd of cows of the same genetic stock will be more vulnerable to diseases? How about the fact that, according to previous legislation, the US Patent and Trademark Office can now issue patents for animals “created” through biotechnology?
Already farmers in many parts of the world are forced to pay for seeds each year, because biotech companies have discovered how to genetically engineer plants to not produce them. These are, in many cases, they very same indigenous crops that farmers have grown for thousands of years. In India, biotech giant Monsanto provided pressure that helped pass laws that makes it illegal for farmers to share seeds with other farmers.
In this context we should see the FDA’s decision as a further step in the industrialization and bureaucratization of the world’s food supply. Cloning animals to produce meat will not make meat cheaper or more nutritious. It will not mitigate the harmful effects on the environment of factory farms. It will not increase food security. It only serves to allow these companies to increase their control over the world’s food supply.