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Friday, December 29, 2006

Consumer choice: Cloned food

Posted by: Hammer / 8:40 AM

With the FDA giving the green light to food products from cloned animals, the next question is whether we can have an opt-out. That is, if you don't want to eat cloned meat or drink cloned milk, can you avoid those products? Maybe -- if the FDA allows companies to identify non-cloned food:

If food from clones is indistinguishable, FDA doesn't have the authority to require labels, Sundlof said.

Companies trying to distance themselves from cloning must be careful with their wording, he added.

"If the statement implies that that particular product might be safer than another product, FDA would not allow that," Sundlof said. "But there may be room for providing a contextual statement that is truthful and not misleading."

A dairy industry group said it's too early to use clone-free labels. The FDA is at least a year away from finalizing approval of food from clones.

The meat industry, of course, opposes informed choice:

Jim Greenwood, president of the Biotechnology Industry Organization, said labeling meat from a clone would be as absurd as telling consumers that a steak was produced through artificial insemination, or by cows actually mating.

Hmm. We have people walking around who were conceived using various forms of artificial insemination. That's deemed more or less okay, right? But we don't have many cloned people, do we? We've got the Pod People, sure, but no clones yet.

There's an obvious psychological barrier to consuming food from new sources. It's probably deeply ingrained for a very good reason -- to survive as a species, we have to avoid eating poisons. If we have never tried a food before, it might well be poison. (No matter how reassuring our parents attempt to be.) Most often, of course, the food is fine.

The question is whether the meat industry should overcome the psychological barrier to cloned food through information and education or through subterfuge and misdirection. I favor information.



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