"Clone on the Range":

The Food & Drug Administration is expected to give the green light to meat and dairy products produced from cloned animals. It is no surprise that biotech boosters like my friend Ronald Bailey cheer this development. Perhaps a bit more surprising is today's endorsement of cloned meat from the Washington Post. Even though polls suggest public unease with the idea of cloned meat, the Post applauds the FDA's focus on the scientific evidence showing the safety meat and dairy products from cloned animals.

Cloning animals with superior genetics will make animal products better and less expensive. Breeders aim to grow genetic twins of animals with desirable traits -- such as leaner, tastier meat -- in order to breed them and improve herds over generations. The only difference between this technique and traditional animal husbandry is the production of a genetic copy at the outset. As more high-quality breeding stock becomes available, the value of such animals will decrease, lowering production costs. Americans who don't want to eat animal products made this way will undoubtedly have the opportunity to do so through niche producers.

Clone Meat and Milk "OK"; No Need to Label:

As anticipated, a draft ruling from the Food and Drug Administration concludes the meat and dairy products from cloned animals are safe for human consumption. As the Associated Press reports

The government believes "meat and milk from cattle, swine and goat clones is as safe to eat as the food we eat every day," said Stephen F. Sundlof, director of the FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine. Meat and milk from the offspring of clones is also safe, the agency concluded.
Given the FDA's conclusion, there is no legal basis to require the labeling of products from cloned animals, but this does not mean we won't soon see "clone-free" labels.

If consumers truly care about whether the milk or meat they consume was produced, producers will have an incentive to respond by offering "clone-free" meat and dairy products, and labeling them accordingly. At least one producer, Ben & Jerry's, plans to do just that. The Vermont ice-cream makers already advertise that they do not use milk from cows treated with recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH). Even though the use of rBGH has no effect on the milk cows produce, this may influence some consumers (though I suspect the high-milk-fat content is the real basis for Ben & Jerry's' popularity).

The legal standard the FDA uses in determining whether it has the authority to mandate labels is the right one, in my view. If the use of a biotech production method, whether the application of an engineered hormone or the cloning of animal stock, does not result in a difference in the product itself, there is no reasonable basis for mandating that the product be labeled, irrespective of consumer preferences. The range of production methods that are of potential interest to consumers is limitless. In these contexts, what information consumers want should be revealed through the interplay of consumer and producer behavior in the marketplace. In the end, perhaps most clone-derived products will be labeled. If so, it should be due to consumer demand, not government mandate.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Cloned Bull:
  2. Clone Meat and Milk "OK"; No Need to Label:
  3. "Clone on the Range":
Cloned Bull:

Slate's William Saletan defends cloned food. It's a good article, that briefly summarizes and refutes the conventional arguments against meat and milk products from cloned animals.

Messing with nature at this level is never simple. It requires ongoing debate, monitoring, and regulation. But we're not even getting that debate. Instead, opponents are relying, as they have in the human cloning debate, on the sheer fact that cloning freaks people out. To reinforce this revulsion and intimidate regulators, politicians, and food producers, they constantly emphasize surveys showing that Americans are uncomfortable with cloned food, think it's unsafe, and won't buy it. As though polls settled the matter. As though the FDA should put science before politics, but only when it suits liberals.

Yes, we're scared of cloned food. But according to the same polls, most of us have heard little about animal biotechnology, don't know biotech food is already in supermarkets, and, against all reason, are more afraid of cloning animals than of genetically engineering them. Don't be cowed. Question your fears. That's the difference between us and the animals.