This week the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) declared food products from cloned cattle, swine and goats safe for human consumption. The ruling has officially opened America’s markets for meat and dairy products from these animals and their offspring.
The announcement came after a five year “final assessment” made by the FDA and has been accompanied with a storm of controversy. A Washington Post news article cited,
“Moral, religious and ethical concerns . . . have been raised,” the agency [FDA] notes in a document accompanying the report. But the risk assessment is “strictly a science-based evaluation,” it reports, because the agency is not authorized by law to consider those issues.
While the FDA should not be responsible for moral, religious, or ethical concerns, I do find it inconsistent that American policy should be determined by “strictly scientific” evidence. However, what I find most disconcerting is that the scientific evidence considers only one side of a very complex scientific issue.
It is comforting to know that cloned meat is safe for human consumption (especially since it is already present in American markets), but what about the impacts of cloning on industrial agriculture?
Introducing clones at a large scale into our livestock begs many questions that we can’t answer. Foremost in my mind is: how is a monogenetic population going to defend itself against disease? This seems especially relevant given the epidemics that have struck global livestock over the past decade.
There are countless examples of how our use of technology at a large scale leads to environmental disasters – why has the FDA not examined how cloned animals will impact the environment?
An issue as complex and ethically charged as cloning should not be decided on basic health issues – human health is not the be all and end all of how we sustain ourselves, nor is it how we define ourselves culturally. This is an issue that demands more time, debate and consideration.
To learn more about the issues have a look at these blogs: