This paper reflects the research and thoughts of a student at the time the paper was written for a course at Bryn Mawr College. Like other materials on Serendip, it is not intended to be "authoritative" but rather to help others further develop their own explorations. Web links were active as of the time the paper was posted but are not updated.
2003 Second Paper
Cloned Meat: Its What's for Dinner
"[Cloning] first involves destroying the nucleus of an egg cell from the species to be cloned. A nucleus is then removed from a cell of an animal of the same species and injected into the egg cell. The egg, with its new nucleus, develops into an animal with the same genetic makeup as the donor." (1)
Sounds yummy, huh? You may soon be dining on Grade A, prime cut cloned beef. Or pork. Or chicken for that matter. Is the thought alone enough to make you want to become vegan? The Food and Drug Administration has issued preliminary statements about the sale of cloned meat and dairy products becoming a reality. These statements are based on a recent report from the National Academy of Sciences. "Eating meat or drinking milk from cloned animals is probably safe, experts from the National Academies of Science concluded after reviewing what little research exists on the topic." (2) But is there truly enough research on this topic to draw conclusions that could affect millions of people's health? Will we even know if we are eating cloned meat or products? And will this cloned meat be used in a way beneficial for society, or simply for a money making purpose?
Obviously, the FDA's main concern with the proposed consumption and sales of cloned meat and dairy products is how it will affect the people eating it. A possible negative effect the cloned products could have is allergenic consequences. A committee from the Academies has stated that the likelihood of these products having and allergenic effect is low.(2) Yet the committee also has cautionary words about the validity of their statements, claiming that the only way to actually find out the reactions to the products is to run multiple tests of consumption of the product; tests which have not occurred in great numbers. It is likely that it will be the offspring of the cloned animals that hit the selves for consumption, not the clones themselves. As the cloning process is still very expensive, the actual clones will be used for breeding, not slaughtering. However, many of the cloned animals are not near the age for breeding, lactating, or slaughtering. (3) This is one of the reasons for the lack of data available. Another concern is whether or not the proteins ingested by the cattle will seep its way into the milk that an unsuspecting human may be drinking. (2) The majority of these concerns are unanswered at this point, due to lack of substantial experimentation and available data. The FDA's preliminary report is based on the hypothesis that successful clones of healthy animals should produce healthy meat and milk. (3) The United States is not the only country interested in beginning to sell cloned meat and milk. Japan is actively researching the process and its risks, as is Canada.
What does the selling of cloned meat mean for the agricultural and food industries? Or the consumer, for that matter? The ideal situation would be that all meat on the market would be raised to a certain level of expectancy. If the prime steer or calf could be cloned, then all meat on the market should have the top quality cut. The overall quality of meat and milk should increase. However, let's not forget about the financial part of this situation. More likely, the cloned meat would be much pricier than the regular meat. A spokesperson from the Athens Corporation agreed. "Wanner said today's cattle and pork markets ring up $700 million annually, but with the introduction of pricier cloned meat, that market will rise to almost $2 billion -- and Wanner said the Athens-based company and UGA expect ''to have a significant piece of the pie." (5) As for the agricultural industry, if cloned animals and the offspring of these clones are allowed to be bred, slaughtered, and sold, it could change the entire face of the industry. "We are deeply disturbed by the idea of mass cloning by the industrial agriculture industry,' said Wayne Pacelle, senior vice president of the Humane Society. 'It will accelerate the drive toward factory farming, which is already becoming dominant.'" (3)
One of the main reasons that the FDA is holdings its final say in this matter is the fact that it is waiting for public feedback. "The consumer has a fear of the unknown. The only way to confront that from a science perspective is to do the studies." (6) In a survey conducted by the Washington Post on November 5, 2003, 56% of those polled said that they would not eat meat from a cloned animal. 32.8% said that they would eat the meat, while 11.2% said that they did not eat any meat at all. (6) CNN conducted a similar poll in August of 2002. Comparing the results, there is an increase in those who voted that they would not eat the meat. In August 2002, only 49% voted that they would not eat the cloned meat, 33% said that they would eat the meat, and 19% said that they were not sure. (2)
But once the FDA approves the cloned meat, will we even know that we are eating it?
The FDA stated that if the products are deemed safe, than they will not be required to have a special marking on them. (7) However, if health problems only occur after long periods of consumption of the cloned meat, shouldn't consumers know what they are eating? The Center for Food Safety thinks that labels should be required. "Certainly I think there should be labels," said Joseph Mendelson, legal director of the Center for Food Safety. "I think overwhelmingly consumers would want that information and I think there's reason to give it to them." (7) Mendelson also added that many Americans do not even know that they are currently eating genetically modified foods.
The use of cloned animals in the production of a greater quantity and quality of meat could be beneficial to society in so many ways. All food prices could go down so that low-income families could afford milk and meat. Meat could be produced to be shipped to third world countries, or those in war. Dying herds of animals in Africa and the jungles of South America could be jumped started. However, based on the price of the cloning process, and the payback that many farmers who endorse this process are expecting, more than likely meat from cloned animals will become some sort of weird, expensive delicacy.
1) World Book Encyclopedia; the entry for cloning
2)Safety Report from CNN, article about the safety of cloned products
3)Sept. 15, 2002 Washington Post article
4)FDA report about cloning, minimal report on safeness of cloned products
5)Online Athens article
6)Nov. 4 Washington Post article, Article about FDA's decision
about safeness of eating clone products,
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