On the same day that Starbucks announces that it will no longer offer organic milk to customers at its 15,000 stores, the US Food and Drug Administration announced that cloned animals are safe to eat.
The New York Times reported on Wednesday that the "voluntary moratorium" observed by farmers on the sale of cloned animal products and that of their offspring has been lifted. "This is a milestone," declared Mark Walton, president of Viagen in Austin, Texas, a leading livestock cloning company.
But a milestone for what? At a time when government agencies should be working in unison on a plan to reduce carbon emissions in the environment from as many sources as possible, the FDA's cloning decision is a bad one. The carbon footprint of the beef industry is an enormous one. From livestocking to slaughter to meatpacking and then retail sales in grocery stores or restaurants, beef production is a part of the looming, energy-driven environmental disaster. Now the industry wants to sell more of what they are claiming will be a better-engineered cow.
The fact that cloned mammals have only existed for just over a decade and that research by consumer advocacy groups does not yet support their introduction into the food supply is another, equally disturbing concern. Many in Congress also oppose the FDA ruling.
Overall, Americans need to eat less, not more meat, especially from cloned animal products, whose impact on consumers' health is uncertain. Excessive consumption of meat products is clearly linked to heart disease and the consumption of large and consistent quantities of fast food meals is considered a major cause of obesity in America. In classic FDA tradition, the government also announced that it would not require labeling of cloned products, just as it bowed to pressure from the dairy industry over the labeling of organic milk products and the presence of BGH.
What effect will BGH or pesticides, fungicides and herbicides in their own grain supply or antibiotics to treat conditions like mastitis in cattle have on cloned animals? Tell your Congressman to tell the FDA, "You go first."