Our beef with cloned meat

Our beef with cloned meat

Before too long, that hot, juicy burger you sink your teeth into may well owe its source to a cloned cow. And chances are, you won’t even know it.

That’s because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has declared that food from cloned animals and their offspring is perfectly safe to eat.

“It is beyond our imagination to even find a theory that would cause the food to be unsafe,” FDA food safety chief Dr. Stephen Sundlof said last week in Uncle Sam’s blanket blessing of all things cloned.

Not everyone agrees.

Opponents include the Humane Society and the Union of Concerned Scientists. Upon release of the FDA ruling, UCS director Margaret Mellon fired back: “Animal cloning is a controversial technology with few, if any, benefits to consumers. Most cloned animals have severe defects and are more likely to die at an early age than ordinary farm animals.”

So who’s right? It’s hard to decide, particularly since it’s only been 11 years since Dolly the Sheep was welcomed into the world. Consumers therefore ought to be given the right to make up their own minds.

No labels required

Unfortunately, the FDA won’t let us do so. It said last week that it will not require meat packagers and processors to label cloned meat as a service to those who have serious, health, moral or ethical qualms about the food.

And many do. When FDA convened its own focus groups last year, it found a third of participants vowed never to eat cloned meat.

Despite the government’s efforts to stick its ill-conceived dictums down our throats, Americans ill at ease with cloned meat do have options. They can choose to purchase meat only from those producers — Dean Foods and Smithfield Foods among them — that have voluntarily vowed never to sell cloned products. They can urge producers to voluntarily label their products clone-free. Or they can lobby Congress to override the FDA’s misguided rule and require labeling.

Consumers have a right to know the country of origin of what they eat, the scientific origin of what they eat, whether the food they are eating comes from animals that have been pumped up on steroids and whether their steak has been irradiated to preserve freshness or dyed to make it look fresher.

And the FDA should be on the side of the consumers in fighting to make such information available, not standing in the way.