Cloning: Scientists vs. Consumers

US - Should the US become the first country in the world to allow food from cloned animals onto supermarket shelves? This debate has raged at the Food & Drug Administration for four months. However,the period for public comment closed on May 3, it looks like the cloning debate will come down to scientists vs consumers.
calendar icon 8 May 2007
clock icon 4 minute read

In December, the FDA said it was inclined to allow such foods into US stores, based on the evidence it had reviewed, but it asked for outside comment.

Thousands of individuals wrote to the government to voice their opposition to the prospect of cloned products being allowed into the food supply. In large part, they made emotion appeals that cloning was immoral or that cloned food was repulsive. "Unethical, disturbing, and disgusting," wrote one consumer, Lea Askren.

FDA Discounts Emotional Appeals

Scientists, on the other hand, are almost unified in their support of cloning. They see the technology as an effective, important way to produce higher-quality, healthier food. "We have to invest in technology to move forward," says Terry Etherton, head of the Dairy & Animal Science Dept. at Penn State University. This week, the Federation of Animal Science Societies took out an advertisement in one daily paper with a picture of a cloned cow grazing peacefully with her naturally bred calf. "What's wrong with this picture?" it asked. "Absolutely nothing."

The clear divergence suggests that cloned foods will indeed be introduced to US consumers in the near future. The FDA has said that it will consider only scientific arguments in its decision, while popular opinion and emotional appeals will carry no weight. While there are a handful of comments that make some science-based points against cloning, there is surprisingly little in the public comments that is likely to outweigh the FDA's inclination to proceed with cloned foods.

The scientific community is, if anything, more galvanized than ever in its support of the government's proposed move. In addition to taking out its ad, the Federation of Animal Science Societies drafted a statement endorsing the FDA's December conclusion that was signed by 246 prominent scientists from around the world. "The progeny of cloned animals, produced through sexual reproduction, are not clones and are as healthy and normal as the progeny of any other animals," it reads. "Therefore we support the FDA's conclusion that the food they produce is the same as the food produced by any other animals."

Alliance of Opposing Groups

FDA approval would be welcomed by many animal breeders, livestock ranchers, and biotech companies. They have been eager to use cloning to enhance their selection of animals to produce higher-quality beef and milk. Scott Simplot, chairman of the food and livestock giant J.R. Simplot, is one of the furthest along the lne in using cloning technology. He has already cloned cows that have given birth to more than two dozen calves. "It would be a travesty for us to know as much as we do and not be able to bring it to the table," he says.

If the FDA grants its approval, the public outcry against cloning will only grow louder. Among the public comments at the agency, one was from consumer Alison Shahan, who said: "I do not want to consume any more unnatural foods!" Another consumer, Gail Thompson, worries that even though the evaluations today found the food to be safe, years from now newer risks might emerge and then "the damage is already done."

Source: Truth About Trade Technology

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