I’ll Have What He’s Having


Whenever I hear somebody complain about the latest development in biotechnology, I’m reminded of one of Ogden Nash’s wisecracks: “Progress might have been all right once, but it has gone on far too long!”

It seems like we’re learning about new breakthroughs every week. What’s even more amazing is how scientists are turning these stunning advances into everyday applications.

Seven years ago, scientists in Scotland cloned a sheep, which they named Dolly. At the time, it sounded like something out of a science fiction novel. Now it’s becoming routine. Since Dolly, the folks in white lab jackets have cloned lots of other animals, including cattle, goats, and pigs.

Pretty soon, animal cloning is going to touch all our lives–and for the better.

That’s because the Food and Drug Administration, in an early ruling, has deemed food products coming from cloned animals to be perfectly safe to eat. “Edible products from normal, healthy clones or their progeny do not appear to pose increased food consumption risk,” announced the agency.

The pending FDA approval brings a whole new meaning to that phrase so often heard in restaurants: “I’ll have what he’s having.”

Seriously, though, this is something consumers are going to love. And that’s no joke.

First of all, let’s recognize animal cloning for what it is–and what it isn’t. There’s a lot of debate around the country over human cloning, as well there should be. But nobody has raised a serious moral question about animal cloning–and nobody should, because we’re talking about animals.

Cloning simply allows farmers to have more control over something they’ve worked on ever since they domesticated animals. For thousands of years, farmers have tried to breed animals to produce better food products. Cloning is simply going to let them do it better and faster–and to make the finest food available to the greatest number of people.

When I was younger, we used to have several hundred chickens running around the farmyard. They scratched in the dirt and ate whatever they found – bugs, grass, spilled corn etc. Because of this, their egg yolks never looked the same. They were of many different shades of yellow and orange. Today’s consumer would “know” that some of these eggs weren’t ok – they just wouldn’t be sure which ones.

Then we took our birds inside and started feeding them a standardized ration. Suddenly all of the egg yolks looked alike. This was good for the egg business. Variety may be the spice of life, but I’ve never known a grocery-store shopper to smile because she had different looking eggs or be happy about packages of steak that were not the exact same hue.

Most people have a good idea what color they want their eggs and their steak to be. We’re pretty well able to meet this consumer demand for food uniformity through modern agricultural practices. Animal cloning will move the quest for uniformity several more steps forward.

I’m not at all surprised that federal regulators are on their way to approving the use of this new technology. For one thing, it’s consistent with a National Academy of Sciences report on animal-based technology.

It’s also common sense. Livestock produces use identical twins all the time. They don’t ever treat one of the animals with suspicion just because it’s a genetic duplicate.

If a cow’s milk is safe to drink, then why wouldn’t the milk from its identical twin–or its clone–also be safe to drink? After all, the two animals are exactly alike.

With cloning, the product is no different from what we safely consume today. All that has changed is the process by which the food is made.

Having said that, I’m glad we have regulations covering biotechnology. Food safety is tremendously important, so every new biotech development is tested – tested again – and than retested some more. But after all the testing, make a decision. The FDA decision just boosts my confidence.

As for progress, I say: Keep it coming.

Dean Kleckner

Dean Kleckner

Deceased (1932-2015)

Leave a Reply