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Organic Cloned Meat: Contradiction in Terms?

I don’t want to eat steak from a cloned moo cow. Sorry, but it creeps me out. I’m even a little weirded out by the thought that the vegetables I eat were engineered, rather than grown. But I can only control so much in my consumer world.

200px-Cow.jpg Last month, the Food and Drug Administration issued a statement saying that meat from cloned animals was okay to eat and that it could be sold in markets. Seems straightforward enough. But then, in a recent article in the Washington Post, this question was raised: Can cloned meat from animals raised on organic farms be considered organic? The answer may seem simple to those of us who prefer our organic meat to have had a mamma and a papa, but the discussion is a little more complicated.

Biotech industry officials argue that if a cloned animal is raised organically, it should be labeled organic. One of their arguments goes as such: We eat meat from organically raised cows that were artificially inseminated, right? They’re not labeled as such on meat packages. So why should cloned meat be treated any differently, when the only difference between it and a regular cow is that it had only one parent?

Well, aside from the ludicrous premise that the technique of lab cloning (which involves difficult cell-fusion procedures at the microscopic level under lab-controlled conditions) and artificial insemination (which involves basically a long turkey baster hooked to a plastic bag full of bull semen) are comparable, the spirit of organic farming simply doesn’t seem to be in line with cloning. The FDA says it’s going to examine the issue possibly in March. I'm sure they'll look into all aspects of the question and examine this thoroughly. The U.S. government has worked too hard to define "organic" to let this go. Plus, there are market forces in play. The market for organic foods is lucrative, and those who shop for organic products are picky. Odds are the anti-cloned meat contingent will win out, and organic meat will not include cloned meat. However, if a compromise is made, we consumers may end up seeing our meat labeled as “organic cloned” in the near future.

Can Food From Cloned Animals Be Called Organic?Washington Post, January 29, 2007
FDA Issues Draft Documents on the Safety of Animal Clones,” FDA News Release, December 28, 2006
For a clear definition for “organic,” check out page 151 of the 2007 World Almanac. Or you can check out this USDA site.


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