Are You Eating Cloned Meat? cloned animals and their offspring infiltrate our food supply.
Dolly the Sheep:
Think of cloned animals and you will probably picture Dolly the Sheep. The first mammal cloned by scientists in Scotland in 1996, and was a genetic copy of a Finn Dorset ewe six-year-old sheep. While Dolly lived a painful, arthritic life and died prematurely, possibly due to the imperfections of cloning, the industry nonetheless began seeking out ways to capitalize on the new technology.
FDA Approves Cloned Meat:
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the sale of cloned animals, and their offspring for food in January 2008, amidst fierce opposition from animal and consumer advocacy groups, environmental organisations, the public, the dairy industry, and Congress. Regardless the Food and Drug Administration concluded that meat and milk from clones of cattle, swine (pigs), and goats, and the offspring of clones from any species traditionally consumed as food, are as safe to eat as food from conventionally bred animals. As a result, they lifted a voluntary ban on the sale of cloned food that was placed in1999, allowing farmers to freely sell meat and milk from the offspring of cloned animals.
Cloned Meat Infiltrates the UK Food Chain:
The Food Standard Agency (FDS) first confirmed in 2008 that it traced 2 bulls that were born in the UK from embryos harvested from a cloned cow in the US. After the investigation of this earlier case and the meat being sold to consumers, it came to light that a second case of meat from the offspring of a cloned cow had also entered in the UK's food chain.
- In the Scottish Highlands the first of the two cloned animals were slaughtered in July 2009 and its meat entered the food chain.
- The second was slaughtered on 27 July 2010, but its meat was stopped from entering the food chain. However, it was revealed that meat from another offspring of a cloned cow entered the food chain.
- The cloned animal, called Parable, was born in May 2007 and slaughtered on May 5, 2010.
Why Was the Cloning of Meat Started?
American biotechnology companies started cloning animals that give high yields of milk and meat to use as breeding stock, in 2008 there was an estimated successfully 600 animals cloned, it has really advanced since then.
According to some scientists cloning allows breeders:
- to speed up the clock-less time
- to focus on raising the genetic quality off offspring.
- to boost the performance of animals and thus their value.
- to increase the food efficiency of the herd, by bringing to the fore animals who require less feeding and produce less waste, thus reducing their environmental footprint.
- to produce more food easily.
- economic gain.
Peter Stevenson, from campaign group Compassion in World Farming, said cloning was "at the sharp end of the inhumane selective breeding processes that are often involved in the intensive production of meat and dairy products, many animals suffer in the pursuit of higher yields because they are being stretched to the limits of their physical capacity.”
How Is Cloned Meat Made?
To clone a specific animal for example a cow, you take a donor egg from a female cow and remove the egg's nucleus, where the genetic information lives. You then insert the nucleus of a cell taken from another cow into the egg. The egg now contains the latter cow’s DNA.
1: Cells from animals are placed under a microscope
2: The tiny balls of DNA are detected using UV light
3: The DNA is removed from the nucleus of the cell using a microscopic pipette
4: Cloned cells are stored
5: Embryos created from the cloned cells are frozen
6: The animal is placed in a stall to receive a cloned embryo
7: The embryo is implanted
8: The end result - cloned offspring
What Are the Effects of Cloning Animals?
One of the main drawbacks of cloning is that if the original organism has genetic defects, these transfer to the clone as a copy of the original. Researchers also observed some adverse health effects in sheep and other mammals that have been cloned. These include an increase in birth size and a variety of defects in vital organs, such as the liver, brain and heart. Other consequences include premature ageing and problems with the immune system."what will be the real consequences of cloning meat worldwide?
Is It Safe to Eat Cloned Meat?
Cloned animals pose several concerns for consumers. These animals tend to have difficulty delivering live young and develop lameness. These illnesses may lead them to be heavily treated with hormones and antibiotics, which can enter the food supply and put human health at risk.
The Centre for Food Safety, a leading opponent, bases its position on a range of detailed scientific criticisms combined with wider ethical objections. It points out that the failure rate of cloning is still substantially higher than other reproductive methods - it can be as low as 5% of the embryos implanted. There is also a greater incidence of problems at birth, such as Large Offspring Syndrome, in which oversized foetuses develop in the womb that can cause suffering and even death for both mother and calf.
The Centre for Food Safety is unimpressed by official assurances that cloned food is safe, arguing that there is insufficient scientific evidence to be certain about its long-term prospects. The organisation poses a series of what-if questions:
- What if defects or mutations in clones remain hidden and undetectable but are found to be dangerous to humans down the line?
- What if those defects can be passed on to the progeny of clones, thereby disseminating them throughout the nation's livestock?
And finally, Centre for Food Safety warns that the impact of cloning will tend towards a further reduction in biodiversity through the promotion of genetically identical herds, which in turn could put both animals and humans at risk of disease epidemics. It wants to see the labelling of any products coming from either clones or their offspring, a demand that US authorities have deflected.
No Requirements to Label Cloned Meats:
Not even scientists can distinguish a healthy clone from a conventionally bred animal just by look alone, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulatory agency said. There are no requirements to label meat or milk from a cloned animal or its offspring, whether sold domestically or abroad.
Scottish Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead said, “consumers deserve to know the origin of all foods they purchase" and he was "concerned to learn that the offspring of these animals have been reared in the UK for food production purposes without any authorisation from the Food Standards Agency.”
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said in 2008: "The FSA is investigating how meat from the offspring of a cloned animal was allowed to get into the food chain. If we need to change our procedures to ensure full traceability of cloned cattle and their offspring in the UK, then we will work with our European partners to ensure that this happens.”
The Food Standard Agency did publicise widely the rules around cloned animals and progeny of cloned animals entering the food chain, the information was in the national and farming press.
While there is no specific EU/UK ban, foodstuffs, including milk, produced from cloned animals must pass a safety evaluation and gain authorisation under so-called ‘novel foods regulations’ before they are marketed in Europe.
A first-class cattle tracing scheme was put into place, but the system is not perfect. The Food Standard Agency said, "It's a bit like the police being there and being an efficient service and us expecting no crime. It's inevitable that however good the system is, it ultimately relies on the honesty of the people who are participating in the chain. So, it means that every farmer, every breeder, every processor has to come clean and tell us what it is they're actually doing. It's impossible for us to stand by each animal and watch what happens to it throughout its life cycle.”
Genetic Cloned Assimilation:
Since the injecting of cloning technology into commercial farming over the last decade, it cannot be certain that the gradual dissemination of DNA material produced by cloning can be prevented, or even monitored. It has been proposed of keeping a database to record the whereabouts of cloned farm animals. But there is no system in place to track the offspring’s and what happens to them? which maybe an impossible task now.
Fast Food Companies:
Most fast-food restaurants usually use genetically modified food and Mc Donald’s is no exception. The Mc Donald’s ‘See What We’re Made Of’ campaign, consumers are invited to learn about the ingredients that make up McDonald’s menu. However, McDonald’s has no policy on milk and meat from cloned animals or their offspring. Which means that consumers will have no way to know if that McDonald’s Big Mac is of Cloned meat. By law companies do not have to declare or label produce linked to clones.
There’s Not a Consumer Today Who Doesn't End Up Buying Transgenic Food:
The scientists and entrepreneurs who are on the frontiers of this technology dislike the phrase cloned food, finding it too reminiscent perhaps of the words used by opponents to genetically modified crops such as "Frankenfood". They prefer the phrase "agricultural genomics.”
Bovance, America's largest cow-cloning company in Sioux Centre, Iowa, in 2008 had around 50 other cloned animals being held in "biosecure” environment. Bovance embody the frontline in the battle between Science and consumer ethics over the way we produce food, similar in many respects to the uproar that erupted over genetically modified crops.
We are all now familiar with genetically modified- Transgenic crops, fruit, vegetables, gains etc - meaning it has been altered through the transfer of genes from other breeds, this has now spread throughout the world like a spider's web. About 90% of the soya bean crop and 80% of corn is now transgenic, while about 3 quarters of all cheese consumed is made with enzymes produced by genetically modified bacteria. There’s not a consumer today who doesn't end up buying some transgenic food. Will consumer resistance to animal cloning be similarly be accepted and overcome?
The floodgates are already open. Cloned animals and their offspring infiltrate our food supply and consumers are none the wiser. So, it's really about the farmers, international trade partners, retailer’s and food companies labelling clone meats as such, showing transparency and giving customers choice. How can we trust what we go into shops to buy and not be in doubt?