For those interested in the flood of news and analysis on the cloning decision by the FDA, check out the Ethicurean's "issue watch" round up of articles, blogs and press releases on the subject. (I've cloned their bovine graphic at left). Once again, the blog is proving itself as the must-eat salad bar for food-related news and opinion.
Now my 2 cents:
For now, it appears, mainstream food companies are being very cautious about the cloning technology, now wanting to upset or get ahead of consumers. But it will be interesting to see what happens as more progeny of clones appear. Will they enter into the food supply in a stealth manner, like genetically modified crops? Business Week pointed out that Monsanto targeted industrial crops for GMOs so that consumers would be one-step removed from them: they appear largely as components in food ingredients (as animal feed, high fructose corn syrup, and soy derived products such as vegetables oils and lecithin) or now as ethanol. So pehaps the first cloned products will be industrial dried milk products used in processed foods. When the public is aware of GMOS, they tend to get queasy -- hence the dramatic rise in demand for milk from cows that have not been treated with genetically modified growth hormones.
While GMOs took over the US commodity corn and soybean market, they are still highly controversial overseas. Given the extreme difficulty US beef exports have had overseas in places like South Korea and Japan, due to concerns about the USDA's inadequate inspection regime and mad cow disease, cloning won't help this market. (Asia has shifted largely to Australian sources). The US is creating a high-tech food supply that the rest of the world would rather do without. And don't be fooled that this technology is about feeding the world: it is extremely expensive and creates intellectual property for the owners behind it. What it does not do is create the means for food-scarce people to feed themselves.
So what's the alternative? Organic, since the cloned animals are (and progeny will likely be) banned from organic methods under USDA regulations, according to this National Organic Program memo (pdf) and Q&A (pdf) on the subject.
- Samuel Fromartz