Sunday, August 15, 2010


The controversy regarding safety or acceptability of products like meat and milk from off springs of cloned cows is becoming a serious issue posing some trade strains between the US and the UK. It all started by reports that such products are circulating in the British market about which the food safety authorities had no clue. This episode even created a campaign for shutting down the safety agency in the UK charging it with dereliction of duty by not preempting such undesirable and unlawful activities of the food industry. Now it turns up that the suspected British products originated in the US causing wide consternation all around.

'Mark Rueth's Holstein cow Paradise had just been crowned supreme champion of the World Dairy Expo in Madison in 2000 when a biotechnology company salesman approached him ringside and offered a cut-rate deal to clone Paradise so she could "live forever," and make his farm more profitable. The Oxford dairy farmer and cattle breeder agreed, and the salesman immediately pricked the prize cow's ear to harvest DNA. The world of cloning hasn't exactly been paradise for Rueth in the decade since, and especially during the past two weeks. Recent headlines in the British press screamed that two male offspring of a Paradise clone were slaughtered for beef that entered the food chain. Milk from a daughter of a Paradise clone also was traced to the British food supply, setting off consumer fears about food safety. "The English people get in an uproar about stuff," Rueth said last week, noting that a British reporter and photographer showed up unannounced at his farm. "It's not like you're manipulating or changing the DNA. Half of the DNA from the clone's offspring is from the father." In the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration doesn't regulate milk or meat from offspring of cloned animals, and doesn't require labeling. Two years after the agency concluded those food products were safe, they're in the American food supply. However, the U.S. Department of Agriculture requests that the industry continue a voluntary moratorium on placing products from original clones in the food supply to allow trade partners in other countries to pursue their own regulations".

The controversy assumed another dimension when it was revealed that cloning was done from tissues recovered from a cadaver cow, the justification being that the quality of meat can be tested only after the animal is slaughtered. But many puritans do not savor the "act of resurrection", as the process is understood by a lay man, being construed as "interfering" with nature. The consumers will never know about this while buying such products from such sources because slack labeling regulations in the US.

"These "resurrected" animals are then bred with naturally born cows. The next step is to see if their offspring - whose meat can be sold to consumers in the US - have the same qualities as the grandparent from which the cells were originally taken. Ranchers at the Simplot company also clone from live animals that are particularly productive or fertile. The driving force behind the project is the head of the company, Scott Simplot, who firmly believes that cloning can be used to improve beef production. His stated aim is to raise the standard of the great American steak. "The notion behind what we are doing is to find that animal that created that great steak - and once we have it, we want to reproduce it," he said. "So (if we are successful), every time we have a steak at a restaurant it will have that memorable taste." But the idea is not to everyone's taste. The leading whole food chain in the US, Whole Foods Market, has banned the sale of products of cloning. According to its global vice-president, Margaret Wittenberg, although meat and milk from cloned animals has been allowed to go on sale in the US, most Americans have never heard of it".

Earlier the news of products from cloned animals appeared in news papers that alerted the British safety agency which is yet to come to a conclusion regarding this controversy.

"Food safety officials in Britain are to investigate a claim that milk from the offspring of a cloned cow was on sale for public consumption, they said Monday. The disclosure has provoked concern among some farming campaigners, and the Food Standards Agency (FSA) is set to investigate a report in Friday's International Herald Tribune newspaper. But the body which represents Britain's dairy industry insisted that there was no danger. The newspaper quoted a British dairy farmer, speaking anonymously, saying that he was using milk from a cow bred from a clone as part of his daily production. The farmer did not want his name to be disclosed because he feared Britons saw cloning as "distasteful" so buyers would stop taking his milk if they knew who he was. The FSA said in response that it regarded meat and products from cloned animals and their offspring as "novel foods" which need to be authorised before being put on sale. "The agency has not received any applications relating to cloning and no authorisations have been made," a spokeswoman said. "The agency will, of course, investigate any reports of unauthorised novel foods entering the food chain." Peter Stevenson, from campaigners Compassion in World Farming, said he was "extremely concerned" at the report and called for an outright ban on the sale of food from cloned animals and their offspring.He said: "The Food Standards Agency must act quickly to trace this milk and get it withdrawn from shops. The cloning of farm animals can involve great suffering."

Europe's strict stand on cloned animals is understandable given the uncertainties regarding the long term consequences of consuming products derived from animals of later generations of cloned parents. The shocking revelation about the unpredictable developments vis-a-vis the first cloned animal Dolly is still fresh in the memory of people and this puts further dampener on the possibility of acceptance of foods from cloned animals.


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