Of note is the fact that the FDA have excluded sheep from the ‘safe to consume’ list. They cited limited research data. One wonders whether it, instead, could have had something to do with the extremely bad press Dolly the Sheep received!
Despite five years of discussion before releasing 11 pages of vague information supporting their decision, the FDA seems to have ignored research that showed the high level of birth defects that occur within cloned animals, if they make it to term at all. One comment that related to this came from Dr Stephen Sundolf, the FDA’s veterinary medical chief, who said that if the cloned animal was born healthy you could notice a difference. He hastened to add, “But as the animal matures, they become indistinguishable.”
It comes as no surprise that food safety groups from around the world are up in arms about the decision. Calling it “reckless”, they argue that the decision is not backed by sufficient research into long term effects on those who do consume these products. And the Organic Consumers Association is pressuring for double blind, peer-reviewed human feeding studies.
It seems that interested organisations are going to find it difficult to get consumers to simply accept the FDA’s word for it. In a study done by Biotechnology Australia, it became clear that over 60% of consumers are likely to say no to products of cloned animals. More than one large manufacturer has declined the use of milk products from genetically engineered cattle or their offspring. Kraft, for example, believes the consumer backlash will be sufficient to make it too risky to use.
Dr Ian Lewis from Genetics Australia is, however, unmoved and hopes that the Australian government will soon follow the FDA’s example. In fact, he is keen to see the Australian public eating cloned animal products within the next decade.
One has to wonder … is history repeating itself. Is this not the same as what happened with genetically engineered crops and milk from cows injected with bovine growth hormone? Are we once again being turned into human guinea pigs – without our knowledge or consent?
We should be concerned as much by the prospect of no labelling laws. If the FDA’s decision is upheld, then consumers would not be made aware of what they’re eating – and that would be completely unacceptable.
Quite apart from the moral issue … just what are the consequences of eating foodstuffs that contain abnormal cells? If we are what we eat, will it start a chain reaction at a cellular level within those who do consume it – unwittingly or not? And what, if anything, can we do about it?
Quite a bit, actually…
- Avoid meat and dairy-based product imported from the US, and any other countries that support the FDA’s stance.
- Support restaurants that serve meat you can be sure is safe.
- Use technology as a tool, and keep up to date with what’s happening.
- Lobby the government to pass a law that any genetically engineered produce has to be labelled, on supermarket shelves and on restaurant menus. - Buy products that state they are GM free.
And eat organic from local producers.