The U.S. Agriculture Department on Tuesday asked companies to voluntarily extend a moratorium on selling meat and milk from cloned animals, even though the Food and Drug Adminstration this week declared the products safe to eat. (Reuters)
What the commentators said
The FDA’s seal of approval “won’t calm the public’s queasiness” about cloned food, said the San Francisco Chronicle in an editorial. No wonder the government doesn’t expect anyone to start trying to market the meat from cloned cattle, pigs, and goats for five years. “For starters,” farmers will probably want to use their lab-perfect animals for breeding, and only sell their offspring.
Even after ranchers manage to produce the cloned offspring, said Jerry Hirsch in the Los Angeles Times (free registration), “many of the nation's biggest grocers say they are dead set against selling it.” And restaurants aren’t salivating over the prospect of putting cloned cheeseburgers on their menus, either.
Even though scientists didn’t spot any difference between meat from cloned and naturally bred animals, said the San Jose Mercury-News in an editorial, critics are still worried about side effects. The FDA “deserves credit” for studying the issue for six years, but it should go a step further and require labeling on cloned animal products so consumers will be able to decide for themselves whether the stuff is fit for consumption.
The FDA might let producers label “products as deriving from non-clones,” said Ronald Bailey in Reason.com, and that would serve the same purpose. But if you’re squeamish, remember that we’ve been “eating clones for generations”—they’ve just been fruits like grapes, bananas, and some varieties of apples. Cloned beef will come from top specimens, so “I personally will seek out cloned steaks when they become available.”