“So says the Food and Drug Administration, according to several media reports on the imminent release of a Òfinal risk assessmentÓ on cloned food.
But surprise, surprise, here come the professional activists who seem to oppose every innovation aimed at making your life better. No amount of careful study would stop these radicals from putting out angry press releases that demand a ban on the marketing of meat and milk that comes from cloned animals. They hope that their outrage will whip up public fears and prevent the FDA from acting on the conclusions contained in what the Washington Post has described as a 968-page, soon-to-be-released scientific study. Who can really know what they are up to?
No one will ask them if theyÕve read the report. But, at the end of the day, these people arenÕt relevant. What matters is our strong regulatory process and the realities in our production system.
Nobody is on the verge of eating a cloned animal. It currently costs about $17,000 to clone a cow–so you wonÕt be seeing any Cloneburgers on the McDonaldÕs Dollar Menu.
We should recognize what the FDA report represents: The advent of a sound new assisted-reproduction technology that holds the potential to deliver safer and finer food to Americans. Technology has always been why Americans can take food for granted. Technology is why we have the safest food in the world by measure.
Cloning has the potential to update older reproductive technology. Perhaps youÕve heard of Òbreeding,Ó in which farmers blend seeds to grow better crops and ranchers match animals to raise beefier cattle. ItÕs been going on since the dawn of agriculture, for the good of everyone.
The cloning of animals is just another form of breeding–and certainly nothing that we have reason to fear. Just as counting on ones fingers led to slide rules, which developed into calculators, which eventually matured into laptop computers, traditional breeding has given rise to the next innovation in food production.
ItÕs been more than a decade since Scottish scientists made global headlines with the cloning of a sheep named Dolly. They didnÕt do it on a whim. They understood that if an outstanding animal could be duplicated, everyone would benefit–from producers who crave efficiency to consumers who want consistency and quality in their food.
Think of it this way: When you wear out a pair of shoes, if theyÕve been a good and reliable pair, youÕre probably inclined to buy exactly the same kind again. After all, past performance predicts future performance. Cloning animals works the same way–rather than adding risk to the equation, it actually removes risk.
So when critics say that cloned food is risky–and they will say it, because theyÕre prone to saying just about anything–theyÕre 100-percent wrong. Only the healthiest, most disease-resistant animals will be cloned.
The FDA has studied the practice exhaustively, and its forthcoming document sounds like a triumph of transparency: ÒThe agency report includes hundreds of pages of raw data so that others can see how it came to its conclusions,Ó says the Washington PostÕs Rick Weiss, who obtained a leaked copy.
WhatÕs more, the FDA is hardly alone. Earlier this month, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)–an organization that isnÕt exactly famous for going out on a scientific limb–reached similar conclusions in its own analysis: ÒBased on a number of parameters including physiological and clinical ones, healthy clones and healthy offspring do not show any significant differences from their conventional counterparts.Ó
For the European Union, the EFSA ruling is just the start of what could be a long regulatory approval process. Yet the language is strong and it makes me think that if the jittery, scared-of-their-own-shadow Europeans are willing to back up the FDAÕs opinion that cloned food is a-okay, then we should be doubly comfortable with where weÕre heading.
Anybody who cares to investigate the science of cloned food will come to the conclusion that itÕs perfectly safe. In fact, itÕs not hard to imagine a time when consumers wonÕt be wary of cloned food–they may actually demand it, knowing that itÕs synonymous with top-quality reliability.
Innovation and progress are about our future. As our global food and biofuels demand grows we will strain that wonderful condition weÕve enjoyed where we take fine, abundant food for granted. Do we want to leave our future to narrow-minded activists? Before we can really send in the clones, we need to send out the naysayers.
Reg Clause, a Truth About Trade and Technology board member (www.truthabouttrrade.org) raises cattle, corn and soybeans on a fourth generation family farm in central Iowa.