Monday, February 18, 2008

Tracking Cloned Meat – Are Consumers Afraid of the Unknown?

The FDA persists in their refusal to label cloned meat. Speculation exists that consumers are wary due to “fear of the unknown”, despite repeated reassurance that cloned meat is safe. Is it really just the unknown factor? Given the FDA’s record of mishaps and recalls, don’t we have a right to fear something that speaks to us as so unnatural?

Patrick Cunningham, PhD, chief science adviser to the Irish government and a founding executive of the company IdentiGEN is supporting public wariness by proposing a DNA tracking system for cloned meat. The meat tracking system would require that companies who clone animals keep records of the animal’s DNA. This would allow consumers to submit meat for testing. It’s possible that even traces of cloned meat can show up in anything from soups to various cuts of beef, making labeling somewhat encompassing. In the UK and Ireland, several large retailers and food producers offer IdentiGEN to consumers for certification and to aid in safety recalls, another consideration of value.

Mark Walton, PhD, president of ViaGen, a company that clones animals for use in agriculture, says: "It's hard to imagine a scientific reason or a health reason that you would need to follow animals at all. Dr. Walton says consumers possess “fear of the unknown” when it comes to consuming cloned meat. He calls it nothing more than a “breeding technology”. He points out that a prize stud can only produce so much semen. The "prize" would be cloned for his semen, and we would eat his superior children.

This is entirely believable because a cloned steer costs $13,500 versus $1,000 for a normal steer. (Should that read an “abnormal steer” costs $13,500?) Walton says his company has cloned “about 400-500” animals in the past four years. What’s 100 clones, give or take? $1,350,000, to be exact.

Of interest, the United States has no method in place to trace processed foods back to specific animals, a system that both Europe and Canada have in place.

Is the urge to consume huge quantities of beef so strong that this could become a conventional breeding method? I think any sane person would agree there are friendlier options for the economy, the environment and as a solution for our starving world populations, not to mention our natural systems. Where are we going, or rather, how did we get here?

We know we are losing our connection with nature, but we’ve let ourselves believe otherwise by listening rather than sensing. We are no longer a co-evolved food chain, and in spite of what I’ve been told, I “feel” the difference and I see it reflected in emerging health issues.

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