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Government Science News

US FDA Deems Cloned Animals Edible 598

Coldeagle sends us the news that the US Food and Drug Administration has declared that meat from cloned animals is safe to eat. The agency decided that no labeling is necessary for meat or milk from cloned cows, pigs, or goats or their offspring. (Ironically the FDA didn't include cloned sheep in the announcement, claiming a lack of data, though the very first cloned animal was a sheep named Dolly.) The article notes that a couple of major food suppliers have already decided not to use any products of cloning, and that the groups opposed to cloning in the food chain will now concentrate their efforts on convincing more suppliers to boycott the business of cloning. The FDA noted that their focus groups and other public input indicated that about 1/3 of US citizens do not want food from cloned animals under any circumstances; another 1/3 have no objections; and another 1/3 fall somewhere in between.
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US FDA Deems Cloned Animals Edible

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  • I'd much rather... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Dance_Dance_Karnov ( 793804 ) on Tuesday January 15, 2008 @09:32PM (#22060672) Homepage
    have cloned meat than meat pumped full of growth hormones.

    if cow A is good to eat, then a clone of cow A should be just as good to eat.
  • by garcia ( 6573 ) on Tuesday January 15, 2008 @09:35PM (#22060718)
    This is the same FDA that allows beef growers to feed the parts of other cows (minus the brains and spinal cords) to other cows while they are packed in tightly and standing in their own piles of urine and feces because they can't move anywhere.

    This is the same FDA that has permitted plenty of E. coli outbreaks [] because they refuse to put an end to unhealthy meat practices.

    This is the same FDA that bends to political pressure instead of caring about the health of the American public it is supposed to protect.

    What about hormones which possibly cause early puberty in girls? I could go on but I won't bother, we all know what we're putting into our bodies...

    Cloned beef may be safe but it's the practices that they allow outside of this that really suck and I wouldn't trust a fucking thing they approve and neither should you. If only that beef didn't taste SO good :(
  • by Dragonshed ( 206590 ) on Tuesday January 15, 2008 @09:43PM (#22060818)
    Cloned or not, as long as the animal in question lived a happy, healthy life prior to being slaughtered, I'll eat it. If I can't source it to a responsible supplier, I won't. /opinion
  • Re:Cloning in nature (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ppanon ( 16583 ) on Tuesday January 15, 2008 @09:59PM (#22061030) Homepage Journal
    Sort of. It depends at what point the cloning process occurs. The thing about Dolly was that she was cloned from a mature adult and had inherited the genetic damage that the adult had accumulated in its lifetime (including shortened telomeres). So if they clone them early before a lot of genetic damage has happened to the template organism, OK. If they clone them later, it's not certain what that genetic damage might have lead to. Over multiple generations, that damage could add up and affect quality.

    In the long run, though, cloning your food animals is a bit of a cop out. It means you're trying to maximize your growth/production without establishing sufficient genetic diversity in your strain. As with cloned forests, you've got a highly homogeneous population that is much more susceptible to disease epidemics.

    But I admit it would be tempting if they could guarantee a perfect filet mignon every time.
  • Re:Edible (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Torvaun ( 1040898 ) on Tuesday January 15, 2008 @10:00PM (#22061046)
    Technically, ants are edible, but more trouble than it's worth under most circumstances. And if you get chocolate dipped honey ant, it's delicious.
  • by GulagMoosh ( 806406 ) on Tuesday January 15, 2008 @10:01PM (#22061052)
    Cloning is so prohibitively expensive that it won't be an issue for years to come. It's just another copy of the same animal that will get injected with various growth hormones to achieve the optimal fat to meat ratio. Baseball has nothing on the feed animal industry. I'd question the "organic" labeling the FDA has approved rather than be worrying about something that isn't likely to hit your table anytime soon.
  • by Dance_Dance_Karnov ( 793804 ) on Tuesday January 15, 2008 @10:13PM (#22061180) Homepage
    this also is true, but I don't see why clones would be raised any different. now, if they were just doing something like vat growing muscles and feeding them a "nutrient solution" I think a little more research would be needed.
  • by pickapeppa ( 731249 ) on Tuesday January 15, 2008 @10:26PM (#22061314)
    Factories are great things. They make things. Farms are great things. They grow things. Put them together and you something ugly. I have no spiritual objection to cloning, but I question the wisdom of further mucking up our Food Works. I can reinstall my OS, I cannot re-install me. I'd like to move much more cautiously and intelligently than has been our record when it comes to food than we have with our gadgets and tools. Monocultures are bad. Putting all the eggs in one basket so to speak. We are rapidly narrowing our diet in terms of the species of the things we eat to our detriment. Cloning animals seems like the next step down a bad path to me.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 15, 2008 @10:32PM (#22061378)
    >Also, it's not actually $5,000. The figure I saw quoted on several reports today was more along the line of $20,000 per cloned animal.

    A top-quality sire can fetch $100,000+ at auction so the investment has the potential of good return. Here in Queensland at least one farmer is trialling this. []

  • Re:Glad I'm a veg (Score:4, Interesting)

    by FunWithKnives ( 775464 ) <`ParadoxPerfect' `at' `'> on Tuesday January 15, 2008 @10:52PM (#22061560) Journal
    Unfortunately, vegetarians aren't necessarily exempt from this.

    If you are an ovo-lacto vegetarian (no meat at all, but haven't given up eggs and dairy) like me, then you need to be concerned. Potentially any dairy will now be able to use cloned cows to produce their milk and butter, which they can then sell to us without revealing that fact. I am already very concerned regarding what dairies I purchase from, simply due to my views on animal rights, but this will add yet another variable to the situation. I recommend that you not blow this off as something that will not affect you.

    For the record, I currently buy what milk I do use from Organic Valley [], an American organic coop owned and operated by the small family farms that make it up. They are quite open regarding their methods and the treatment of their animals, so I feel at least relatively satisfied in that respect.
  • Label it at least! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by globaljustin ( 574257 ) on Tuesday January 15, 2008 @11:00PM (#22061656) Journal
    Genetically modified food, particularly meat from cloned animals, should be labeled if the FDA must approve it for sale.

    This is a consumer rights issue.

    All up and down this post, geneticists and biology teachers have been going on and on about telomeres and banana clones and blah blah blah...the fact is, meat from a cloned animal is NOT the same as meat from an animal born as a twin. The long term consequences of narrowing genetic diversity in biological food product (what cows have become) could have very nasty consequences.

    The FDA did their studies and approved cloned meat. Fine by me, but we have the right to know WHAT we are eating...especially in regards to this issue.
  • I must ask... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Jim Robinson Jr. ( 853390 ) on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @12:18AM (#22062372)
    Why are we even talking about this? I'll admit to not knowing much about the cloning process, but it seems to me that there is at least one major logic flaw. Aren't our cows willing to reproduce naturally? I've got family with bulls and they seem eager to hump anything that get into the pasture. Are the commercially raised beef not quite as enthusiastic? Do we actually have a shortage of breeding opportunities? :-)
  • by gnuman99 ( 746007 ) on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @12:35AM (#22062560)
    You are extremely naive. Sorry.

    "Perfectly-immune organism" cannot exist. That's an oxymoron. All life is just an arms race. The attacking organisms need to feed to survive and will adapt to your defenses. Then defenses have to adapt to the new attack vector. For examples, see the super-resistant MRSA? Or other superbugs? The same thing will happen to any "supercow". That's why you can't have a perfect anti-biotic - eventually something will be resistant to that anti-biotic. After all, the cells of the organism that is using anti-biotic are not all killed by it :) So, organisms will just take the traits from that make cells of the anti-biotic taking organism resistant to the anti-biotic. Problem solved.

    Oh, and bananas have an immune system too. :P If plants didn't have an immune system, I don't think they would have survived these hundreds of millions of years. [] []

  • by Iowan41 ( 1139959 ) on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @01:01AM (#22062786)
    Always have. Nothing new here. Twins, triplets, heptuplets, nothing new. Part of nature. Every once in a while a sheep or a cow will have twins, too. City people. They think food comes from grocery stores, and then get all upset when they read something that the reporter didn't understand.
  • by timmarhy ( 659436 ) on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @03:11AM (#22063504)
    "Cloning has not been done for hundreds of years, perhaps 30 to 40 years (if that)."

    eeeeeeeh! wrong answer. taking cuttings and striking them is no different to cloning, and it's been done by humans for 100's of years.

    "my very inexpert understanding of what cloning means"

    I think this makes a point all on it's own.

    "Good thing the fascist government is stepping in and regulating lead in children's toys."

    nice going you even played the "Think of the children card". pity your confusing something known to be toxic with something that's known not to be....

    oh and cloning is has nothing to do with genetically modified crops, if anything it's EXACTLY the oppersite since it's purpose is to get the exact same gene's over and over. as usual you people are confused about what your opposed to.

  • Public Opinion (Score:3, Interesting)

    by serutan ( 259622 ) <> on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @04:02AM (#22063796) Homepage
    1/3 don't want any part of it
    1/3 think it's ok
    1/3 are somewhere in the middle

    And maybe 1 in 1000 know enough to have a meaningful opinion at all.
  • by zooblethorpe ( 686757 ) on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @04:18AM (#22063870)

    ...all fruit is transplanted on root stocks and cloned from the same tree's over and's been done this way for hundreds of years with no ill effects...

    Um, dude, I hate to break it to you, but cuttings of any sort, grafted to root stocks or planted on their own, are not cloned, but are rather in effect offshoots of the same original plant. As numerous other posters have noted, cloning is an entirely different process, which involves taking the genetic stock of an adult organism and creating an embryo using that same genetic material. This therefore means that the new cloned embryo includes all of the genetic damage and aging present in the adult. This is more relevant when dealing with animals (maybe even mammals more specifically?) rather than plants, given how protein encoding can become damaged over time, and given how telomeres regulate the lifetime of the organism. This is why clones generally do not live as long as regularly bred animals -- the shortened telomeres alone dictate a shorter lifespan, let alone any possible genetic damage inherited from the clonestock.

    And, as other posters have noted, genetic damage = changes in protein manufacture. As we have seen with mad cow disease, the consumption of aberrant animal proteins can lead to some very nasty incurable diseases in humans. And we simply do not have the breadth of data truly required to be able to accurately and fairly judge whether the consumption of cloned livestock is truly safe.

    Call me a cynic, but I rather suspect that this FDA ruling has more to do with business concerns than with sound public health policy.


  • by gobbo ( 567674 ) <{wrewrite} {at} {}> on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @05:19AM (#22064196) Journal

    "have cloned meat than meat pumped full of growth hormones."

    The two are not mutually exclusive.

    Nice understatement.

    The real heart of the matter isn't "frankenfood" (though it's a marketing issue, for sure) or the inevitable genetic damage carried forward by the clones; it's the way that the food industry is becoming more capital intensive through ideological progress, vertical integration and conglomeration, and through designing a complex chain of pharmacological dependencies. All these things undermine your food security by replacing family farms (and local processors) with giant corporate systems that DO NOT have you or your community's best interests at heart.

    Cloned, monogenetic livestock herds will require Big Pharma to support them, they'll be susceptible to epidemics and genetic flaws. They will go hand in hand with methods of production that are over-scale and thus risky. They will be controlled by a very few corporate giants, and will further push farmers out of business, to be replaced by more of the same faceless institutions.

    I'm all for mass international corporate production--of electronics. Food, however, is different. Our food security requires

    • regional production in a diverse economic base of farmers and processors
    • people who care, and accountability (see above)
    • biodiversity of crops and in the supporting bioregion
    • a short line between field and table
    • crops and animal varieties that don't need intensive industrial supports
    • broad base of knowledge, and therefore more producers

    well, that's as a start. Food security isn't about stockpiling or having enough or locking your roommates out of the pocket pizzas. It's about integrating the food system into the regional economy and seeking better quality and diversity, it's about reliability and nutrition, and minimizing risks.

    Cloned livestock herds will work against food security, because of how they will be developed, produced, and owned. The so-called health issues are second to these concerns.

  • by Pentagram ( 40862 ) on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @05:53AM (#22064336) Homepage
    I hate to break it to you, but most fish don't screw. They do feel pain, though.

    It would be pretty remarkable if fish didn't sense pain. The question is whether they are *conscious* of pain (or anything else).

    they are widely considered to be as intelligent as mammals

    That assertion doesn't make any sense. Mammals include homo sapiens, blue whales, and the bumblebee bat. I'm pretty confident I'm more intelligent than a chicken.

    The site you use to back up your claim is biased, and a few quotes without context do not make it "widely considered".

    Not that I think animal welfare is something we should ignore, but we should be scientific about it.
  • by foobsr ( 693224 ) on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @07:49AM (#22064878) Homepage Journal
    GM food has been around for 13 years and nothing hugely alarming has come to light

    Yes – a few seconds after the engine of the oil-tankship stopped to work, nothing hugely alarming had come to light. Unfortunately, the vessel crashed into the pier after travelling for a few kilometers.

  • by eonlabs ( 921625 ) on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @10:11AM (#22065910) Journal
    Yes, I can, and I think it's an important consideration.

    Lets say, for example, that a plant species, over millions of years, is slowly affected by small changes that gradually turn it into a plant we know and love today like corn. This plant has evolved a certain level of genetic stability against mutations, such that during the normal process of crossbreeding and mutation, the possible results that can be achieved will mostly be stable. This is important.

    Now, take a piece of genetic code and inject it in there sporadically. The plant now consists of several distinct chunks of information that are forced to be related to each other through horizontal gene transferral. Now, after months of testing (note the first process took millions of years), we deem it is safe to eat and put it into the wild. The plant works better than before because it was designed as intended. This is great, but there's a problem. There's no control over the plants in the wild.

    Once the gene is in the wild, and the plants cross pollinate with non-GMOs, the genes are out of our control. The genes will remain in our food chain for as long as that kind of plant remains in the food chain. Now, maybe you trust the groups who produce these GMOs to have done due diligence on their testing of the stuff, but with as complex of a chemical system as an organism, and something as complex as genetic code, I think we're just kicking ourselves.

    The number of plants needed to create individual problem genes that are beneficial to the plants but hurt us are there. How many kernels of GMO corn does it take to feed Rhode Island. How about NY? The rest of the US? Genetics is a search and optimization problem. Take genes, randomize as needed, preserve helpful ones, repeat. And the problems will arise much faster than normally because its no longer a search between combinations of stable genes that have undergone the same search pattern. There is new data in the mix and it doesn't have the support of natural redundancy that the old plant or donor animal had.

    I have no problem with GMOs if they CANNOT reproduce on their own. Hiding the genes is a non-solution because the genes are still in the code. The issues arise from the presence of the genes in the code, and over several decades.

    We know that with months of testing, nothing bad can happen: [] [] []
  • by causality ( 777677 ) on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @12:04PM (#22067378)
    Labelling it implies there's something wrong with it? Yet you said yourself only "superstition" would make someone think so. So, this is again about depriving people of the choice. If people want to be superstitious you aren't going to solve that by not telling them how their food was raised. How much funding does it really require to add two or three words to a label, and how much of that was I asking you to come up with?

    Again if the problem is that people don't understand cloning, this is an educational issue. You don't generally solve educational issues by refusing to call things what they are. You really begin to resemble religious people who want to use legislation to make others comply with their beliefs, because what you are saying is that someone who doesn't trust the safety of cloned meat should be kept ignorant so that they are, effectively, not allowed to make a choice. Why is that tactic acceptable when you want to do it and unacceptable when wanna-be theocrats want to do it?

    I never asked you to "fund my superstitions" but you must claim this since you apparently have no real argument. If your position is fact-based and scientific, let it win out by virtue of its truth. It should, after all, have that ability where a more religious position would not. You seem to be very insecure about its ability to do so which is the only reason why you would want to remove the element of choice. All I am saying is that making someone buy something that they do not want to buy is never okay, whether you think their reason for not wanting to buy it is valid or not -- that is not for anyone but the buyer to decide.

    You don't like the idea that maybe cloned meat won't sell (and who knows? maybe it will eventually be cheaper/higher quality and sell better)? Start a marketing campaign to inform people that it's safe. Point to the recent FDA decision that it's safe. Give scientific reasons why. All of these are perfectly valid because they rely on persuasion. But if persuasion fails, leave it at that. Be a man and let people make choices you disagree with when they aren't forcing you to do anything you don't want to do. Is that really so tough for you? That's the scary thing about freedom; the more choices people are allowed to make, the more likely it is that they'll do things you don't like. Guess what? That's perfectly acceptable so long as no one is forcing you to do anything you don't want to do, but to insecure people that's very scary indeed.

    By calling me superstitious you conveniently ignore the fact that I am making absolutely no claim about whether cloned meat is a good idea or a bad idea, or whether I would buy it or would not buy it. The ability to know what I am buying (be it meat, cars, Internet service, or whatever) and choose whether I want it or not, for any reason or for no reason at all, is far more important to me in the big picture than whether $business_venture makes a profit or not (whether anyone thinks it "deserved" to or not).

    Now if you really want to amaze me, you'll actually respond to what I am saying. Tell me why customers of any market, be it food, insurance, cars, entertainment, whatever, don't have a right to know anything they want to know about said product before they buy it. I am taking the position that they do have such a right, whether this enables them to make choices you or I approve of or not. Tell me, without all the hand-waving, why they should be deprived of such a right and you will have actually addressed what I said. I'll give you a hint since you seem to be having difficulty with this: talking about luddites and superstition, or the cloning process, or food safety, means that you are failing to answer my very simple point.
  • by esocid ( 946821 ) on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @12:19PM (#22067598) Journal
    The main cause of concern for the public is a lack of trust for the GMOs just because of the unknown factor. It isn't 'natural' in their eyes and is the source of the skepticism. In the scientific community the cause of concern is more with the growing lack of genetic diversity. It won't take long before 90% of the cattle in this country is genetically indistinguishable. The corn and soy beans in the US is already just about at those levels which is a very big cause for concern. Diseases that evolve to target susceptible crops or animals are just that more heinous. Just for the sake of argument I'll bring up the famous potato blight and bovine spongiform encephalopathy (mad cow) and brucellosis in elk. The former is still going on and is being handled terribly by farmers in those regions (I'll forgo my take on that for now). My point is that with decreased genetic diversity means increased susceptibility to disease which in turn causes them to be more pathogenic, meaning that they evolve to be more harmful and more likely to kill their hosts. I for one would like a more sustainable food source than the cheaper alternative. It's a shame that the farming lobby has more of a pull on what happens in this country than the greater numbers who consume those products.
  • by gobbo ( 567674 ) <{wrewrite} {at} {}> on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @02:09PM (#22069164) Journal

    Your faulty assumptions are:
    1. Family farms DO have your best interests at heart.
    2. Giant agribusinesses are somehow completely unaware of and unconcerned with the risks of genetic monocultures and chemical dependencies.

    1: This is not a faulty assumption, just because you know some a-hole farmers (I'm in Canada, so YMMV.) Most farmers care, and the less in hock they are to the vertical integration duopoly of banks and industry suppliers, the more they care. However, face to face interaction introduces accountability at the personal level. Know Thy Farmer, a principle of food security.
    2: I am not assuming this--maybe you're confusing individuals in a corporation with that corp as a legal entity. I am assuming (based on extensive literature and personal experience) that they care about those things in so far as they affect profitability and strategic positioning. Giant agribusiness is not morally driven. They fear those problems and then embrace them due to the competitive advantage, and hold an ideological faith in the next tech solution. Or do you have industry-wide evidence to prove otherwise? Can you prove the biodiversity and non-spraying passions of Monsanto and Cargill? (Please don't cite debacles like roundup-ready soy.)

    One important item left off that food security list was the Precautionary Principle. Smaller producers more easily embrace this.

Variables don't; constants aren't.