From the people who brought you "Food Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (of Starving People)"…The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently ruled that meat and dairy products from the offspring of cloned animals are safe to eat and don’t require special labeling. Unsurprisingly, food-purity activists have come out of the woodwork in opposition to the decision and — equally unsurprisingly — the supposed dangers inspiring their concern are about as real as Jar-Jar Binks.One popular anti-cloning talking point — best summed up in a January 6 New York Times editorial — is that it will make livestock more vulnerable to disease by increasing genetic uniformity:
[C]loning creates genetically identical animals, it will shrink the gene pool on which agriculture rests, and any drastic shrinkage in genetic diversity creates enormous health risks for a species.
Just the opposite turns out to be the case. As Slate‘s William Saletan points out:
[E]fficient cloning can reduce the use of antibiotics, not to mention growth hormones, by spreading healthier genes … [G]uess what blocked mad cow disease in a study released this week? A combination of genetic engineering and cloning.
Next, there’s the issue of whether animals born of cloned parents are actually dangerous to eat. Summing up the activist angle, Joseph Mendelson, legal director for the Center for Food Safety, has told the press that "consumers are going to have a product that has potential safety issues." But, as USA TODAY online columnist Andrew Kantor points out:
Just about every object in your home has "potential safety issues." That’s why we end up with all those wacky warning labels. What’s important isn’t potential safety issues, but realistic ones. Do you really need a warning of the "potential safety issue" of, say, sticking a pencil up your nose?
And the realistic "safety issue" — as the FDA report makes clear — is basically nil.