Human Exceptionalism

Should Cloned Animal Products be Labeled?

This story makes the Naderite in me itch: The actual cloner of Dolly the sheep, Keith Campbell–Ian Wilmut supervised rather than doing the hands on work–is advocating that farmers raise cloned animals rather than those created sexually, as a way of bringing stronger and better animal products to market. Not sure how wise that would be, given the serious unproductively of mammalian cloning, what with many failures, miscarriages, birth defects, and early animal deaths. Moreover, farmers don’t need biotechnologists to breed the next generation of animals: They can put female and male together at the right time and let nature take its course, use artificial insemination, or IVF–although embryo selection is also a tool of modern animal husbandry.

But that is not my real concern. Here is the part that galls. The would-be animal cloners oppose labeling. In other words, they don’t want consumers to be told they are eating cloned meat. From the story:

Professor Campbell, director of animal bioscience at Nottingham University, said cloning is a useful extension of existing selective breeding, which includes artificial insemination and embryo transfer.

“It is just another technique that we can add to accelerate genetic improvements to farm animal species,” he added. “Cloning allows us to multiply elite animals. “We have achieved the ability to clone a whole variety of animals and animal species. In farm animals, we have got cattle, sheep, goats, pigs and horses.

“In my opinion the ability to integrate cloning into the food production line should be allowed to farmers nowadays.” He said there is ‘no conceivable risk’ in eating food produced from the off-spring of clones, suggesting the only barrier to the technology is public perception.

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration is expected to give approval for the technology, without a requirement for labeling, later this year. Dr Simon Best, chairman of the Bioindustry Association, believes labeling is unnecessary saying: “I don’t think there is a scientific reason for doing it.” He said: “There is a whole load of things that the public could want to know, but you end up with information overload.

By information overload, read, “People might not want to buy the product.” We saw the same fight over Monsanto’s litigation strategy that sought to legally prevent sellers from labeling their milk as coming from cows not given bouvine growth hormone (rBST)–as related in Ralph Nader’s and my No Contest. That attempt failed miserably because people wanted to know. Indeed, just the other day, I bought milk at my local Safeway and noticed that the cap disclosed, “Not from cows given rBST. ”

I am not saying that the FDA or other agencies should mandate labeling. But there should not be an attempt–as formerly by Monsanto–to prevent labeling. Consumers care about these matters and if a brand of beef or pork comes from non-cloned animals–the company should have every right to so inform consumers.

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