Headlines revealed yesterday that the offspring of a cloned cow had made it’s way in to Britain and had likely been sold and eaten. Today most of the talking points are about how there are absolutely no health risks associated with cloned meat and that the “red tape” surrounding it’s sale is rather pointless. In other words we should be allowed to eat cloned meat all the time.
The startling thing is that a lot of us are probably already eating the offspring of clones or clones themselves without realising. Why? Because despite it being illegal, it’s not actually regulated.
The Food Standards Agency has admitted it has no idea how many cloned embryos are coming into the country as it relies on farmers and breeders to self-regulate.
“Experts” are quick to claim how safe it all is, but the fact remains, they don’t actually know, because there have been no detailed studies in the UK or the US, where citizens are happily tucking in to cloned food on a daily basis.
A 2004 study from the US National Academies published a report concluding that the FDA’s (America’s FSA) and other regulators’ decision-making processes for assessing food safety were flawed and outdated. The report said the methods and techniques used to make their assessments were not sophisticated enough to predict and identify unintended effects from genetically engineered and cloned food.
It said they needed to “enhance capacity for post-market surveillance”.
In other words there have been no studies that follow the cloned meat from production to the plate to see if it actually is causing any problems. And the longterm effects are obviously completely unknown.
The only rational behind it is that a clone is a clone, so it’s exactly the same biologically. But as we are aware, somebody with bodybuilder genetics doesn’t necessarily then decide to become a bodybuilder, and a clone of a healthy cow doesn’t mean it too will be healthy.
But even this logic doesn’t account for the problems already being seen in the US, which may point to imperfect clones at the beginning stages. This should be dealt with long before we worry about longterm effects of eating the stuff.
Cloning has been found to produce unhealthy animals who suffer tremendously, often with birth defects. They often die young and commonly need antibiotics to survive .
The Center for Food Safety says that as many as 50% of cow clones have what’s called “Large Offspring Syndrome.” Symptoms include unusually high birth weight that endangers the mother, and a long list of organ and systemic abnormalities, including heart problems and immature lung development .
The report also states that there is evidence that clones are not always exact duplicates of their gene donors . Clearly, cloning remains an unpredictable science.
Cloning scientists themselves have warned that even small imbalances in these clones could result in hidden food safety problems in the cloned meat . A recent study found differences in the composition of the milk and meat of cloned animals .
So to brush off cloning as a mastered science that produces healthy meat with no risks is quite a deception.
1. Wells DN. 2005. Animal cloning: problems and prospects. Rev Sci Tech 24: 251-264
2. Center for Food Safety. Not Ready For Prime Time – FDA’s Flawed Approach To Assessing The Safety of Food From Animal Clones, 3/07
3. Geir Tveit & Peter Sandøe, “The Science and Technology of Farm Animal Cloning: A review of the state of the art of the science, the technology, the problems and the possibilities.” Danish Centre for Bioethics and Risk Assessment, p. 24, 2005.
4. National Academy of Sciences. Safety of Genetically Engineered Foods: Approaches to Assessing Unintended Health Effects. p. 222-228, 2004
5. Walsh MK, Lucey JA, Govindasamy-Lucey S, Pace MM, and MD Bishop. 2003. Comparison of milk produced by cows cloned by nuclear transfer with milk from non-cloned cows. Cloning Stem Cells 5: 213-219