Cloned meat and dairy products are sold every day in the US, and the manufacturers are not required to label their products to indicate where they came from. Since 2008, the FDA has approved the sale of beef and milk from the offspring of cloned animals. These products have now found their way into every supermarket, fast food restaurant and school that sells mass-produced meat. Even more shockingly, Simplot, one of the largest frozen food manufacturers responsible for brands such as I&J and Bird’s Eye, has even been cloning animals from the carcasses of dead cows. Under the FDA’s guidelines, manufacturers are responsible for labeling foods from cloned cattle, but there are no laws forcing them to do so. The FDA have essentially given the green light to a self-regulating industry that is flooding the food supply with an untested product that could have catastrophic effects on human long-term health.
The Creation of Frankenfoods
The meat industry has long sought to produce the fattest, juiciest, tastiest meat in the cheapest way possible. This began with selective breeding, and quickly escalated into more controversial areas such as artificial insemination, inbreeding, genetically modified livestock and now cloning. The majority of cloned animals are used for breeding purposes to produce offspring with the most desirable traits for the food industry. Scientists start by taking a donor egg from a female cow and removing the nucleus which holds all the genetic information of the animal. They will then insert a new nucleus taken from a cell of the animal they wish to clone. The egg is then ‘brought to life’ using an electrical charge and implanted into a surrogate. An employee of food manufacturer Simplot told BBC news that his company are just one of many meat producers that have begun cloning animals from those that have already been slaughtered. In the quest to produce the perfect steak, companies examine the meat of dead cows to see which animals produce the tastiest cuts. The cells from the dead animals would then be extracted and cloned to produce more animals with the same qualities.
FDA Seal of Approval
When deciding whether or not cloned meat was safe for human consumption, the FDA applied the ‘flawless’ logic that as cloned meat shows no biological difference to naturally produced meat, it is therefore safe and does not require labeling. However, the FDA’s own report states:
“Surrogate dams bearing cattle and sheep clones show an increased frequency of adverse outcomes compared to dams bearing non-clone pregnancies. Early reports of cloning in cattle and sheep indicated that most clone pregnancies failed to result in live births. Animal cloning, particularly in cattle and sheep, is associated with an increased risk of adverse health outcomes in the surrogate dams carrying late-term clone fetuses, as well as very young clones. Specific health issues of concern for the surrogate dams include the increased incidence of prenatal hydroallantois and/or hydrops (two conditions that lead to serious fetal abnormalities) in the surrogate dams carrying clone pregnancies to term. Health issues of concern for the clones themselves include perinatal symptoms related to LOS [large offspring syndrome] including, but not limited to, pulmonary and/or renal insufficiency, difficulty maintaining body temperature, and umbilical hernias.”
Despite knowing full well that cloning produces unhealthy, deformed animals, the FDA sees no reason to stop the sale of cloned beef and milk or even allow the public to make an informed decision about what they and their families are eating. Exactly what the long-term effects of cloned meat will have on human health is anyone’s guess, as there have been no clinical trials to determine the outcome.
Avoiding Cloned Meat
There is currently no accurate test to determine whether or not a particular food product came from a cloned animal. After the FDA first approved the sale of cloned meat, there was much discussion regarding whether or not cloned meat could be sold as ‘organic’. The manufacturers argued that as long as the animal was raised organically then there should be no reason why cloned meat could not be labeled as organic. The US Department of Agriculture assured the public that they would carefully consider the issue before making a decision. The decision came and went and was strangely ignored by the general media. However, the regulations regarding the labeling of organic food on the Department of Agriculture’s website state that items can be certified organic if:
“Livestock products that are to be sold, labeled, or represented as organic must be from livestock under continuous organic management from the last third of gestation or hatching.”
Meat and dairy products can still be sold as organic as long as they were not given growth hormones or chemicals during the very last stage of pregnancy. The fact that they were created in a petri dish and brought to life using unnatural methods does not seem to matter.
Whole Foods state on their website that they do not intend to sell any meat or milk from cloned animals and source their products from breeders that use either natural methods or artificial insemination. Buying meat from local, smaller farms will also reduce your chances of unknowingly eating cloned meat.
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