First the USDA announces the largest beef recall in US history.
Now we have this:
According to today’s article on SFGate.com, there is one possible, and very scary, outcome. Soon, consumers may not be able to avoid cloned food.
In January, the Food and Drug Administration concluded that cloned foods are safe to eat. And now the market is about to jump on this opening.
For producers this could be great news. For consumers and sellers, however, the future is cloudy.
Why? Because there are no systems in place to label foods this way.
No public system is in place to alert food sellers when products from animal lines that include clones could reach their shelves - whether in the form of a rib-eye steak, a quart of low-fat milk, a can of beef minestrone or a wedge of sharp cheddar.
Consumer groups such as the Center for Food Safety and Consumers Union support mandatory labeling of all products linked to cloning, from raw meat to meatball sandwiches. They’re backing bills proposed in Congress and by a few state legislators, including state Sen. Carole Migden, D-San Francisco. Without labeling, they argue, any food safety problems that did arise from cloning would never be linked to the technology.
Why should we be concerned about the introduction of cloned foods into our food supply?
Here are the facts:
1. Cloning is an attempt to create a new animal using the DNA from an existing adult animal.
2. The FDA admits that livestock cloning produces many malformed or ill newborn animals.
3. According to the FDA, cloned animals that survive for several months after birth can be healthy and can reproduce normally and produce healthy young.
4. The FDA said it found no signs that food from healthy clones is harmful to humans, and predicted that sickly clones would be excluded from the food supply.
5. Consumer groups are calling FDA’s positive safety assessment hasty and ill-founded.
6. The Center for Food Safety said the FDA based many conclusions on small or limited studies, many of them financed by cloning companies. Ultimately, further studies should be done to evaluate clones and their offspring.
7. According to The Center for Food Safety, clones that appear healthy can have infections, or abnormalities that could affect food quality such as unusual proteins or imbalances between protein and fats.
If you’re not yet concerned, you should be. I am. So are the food merchants and policymakers.
Some retailers, after hearing from customers, are also calling for some form of government action. Two supermarket chains with a significant presence in Northern California, Safeway and Whole Foods Market, say the government should oversee a system to track clones through the food supply…
Many food merchants are still framing their policies while they warily monitor public opinion. The historic commercial debut of cloning comes in an era when a significant segment of consumers have rejected other foods the FDA deemed safe, such as milk from hormone-treated cows and genetically modified corn.
Is there any good news in all of this? There is some:
* Whole Foods states that its products will remain free of both clones and their descendants.
* Safeway is asking its suppliers to deliver no products from cloned animals while the government mulls its options. However they declined to say whether it will accept foods from the offspring of clones.
At the very least, this is a story to follow. At most: get involved by asking around your local store or grocery chain. Let them know that you’re aware and ask for their stance.
Since we do mostly farmers market and Whole Foods, and avoid meat, we should be well covered. But this is about more than us, and me - I want clear labeling and policies regardless of whether or not it affects us.