Monday, December 7, 2009


According to the FAO estimates, present food production needs to be doubled by 2050 if the population at that time is to be fed adequately. How this can be achieved with severe limitations on land, water and other inputs is hot subject of intensive speculation at present. Experts feel that 70% of the increased production must come through efficiency improving technologies. Added to this worry is the unexpected resistance from environmentalists and consumer groups to accept genetically improved crops through the biotech route. Cloning technology by Somatic Cells Nuclear transfer is being touted as one of the best options for increased production of animal foods like beef and milk, though success rate is hardly 15% which must go up to 60% if this option is to be considered viable.

"The U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2008 approved the sale of food from clones and their offspring, stating the products are indistinguishable from that of their non-clone counterparts. Japan, the European Union, and others have followed suit. The moves have stirred controversy about whether tinkering with nature is safe, or even ethical, prompting major food companies to swear off food products from cloned animals. But consumers are likely already eating meat and drinking milk from the offspring of clones, which are technically not clones, without even knowing it. Farmers can now use cloning and other assisted breeding technologies to breed cows that produce bigger, better steaks or massive amounts of milk, and animals that resist diseases or reproduce with clockwork precision. Premier genes can translate to improved feeding efficiency, meaning the ability to convert the least amount of feed into the most meat or milk, which results in a smaller environmental footprint".

The approval accorded for foods from cloned animals last year in the US has spurred others like Japan, EU and a few more countries to declare that this is a safe practice. Whether cloning will ever be commercially viable, considering the cost of cloning a cow to day being $ 15000, remains to be seen. The uncertain results of cloning efforts with high failure rates also may prove to be a damper for wide scale adoption.

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