The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued three documents on the safety of animal cloning — a draft risk assessment; a proposed risk management plan; and a draft guidance for industry.
The draft risk assessment finds that meat and milk from clones of adult cattle, pigs and goats, and their offspring, are as safe to eat as food from conventionally bred animals. The assessment was peer-reviewed by a group of independent scientific experts in cloning and animal health. They agreed with the methods FDA used to evaluate the data and the conclusions set out in the document.
The proposed plan outlines measures that FDA might take to address the risks that cloning poses to animals involved in the cloning process. These risks all have been observed in other assisted reproductive technologies currently in use in common agricultural practices.
In the draft guidance, FDA does not recommend any special measures relating to human food use of offspring of clones of any species. Because of their cost and rarity, clones will be used as are any other elite breeding stock — to pass on naturally-occurring, desirable traits such as disease resistance and higher quality meat to production herds. Because clones will be used primarily for breeding, almost all of the food that comes from the cloning process is expected to be from sexually-reproduced offspring and descendents of clones, and not the clones themselves.
Jake already wrote what I wanted to write, but here it is in a nutshell:
Meat and Milk safety
Meat is meat. Milk is milk. Beef of any other name is still beef.
Cloned animals are not the same as genetically-modified animals. First, cloned animals are NOT identical to their parents. Second, there is no insertion of non-cow (or non-sheep, non-pig, etc) genes into these animals – no danger of aflatoxin, or peanut genes that can trigger allergies. Every protein in the steak of a cloned cow is still a typical cow protein. If you can normally eat beef, you can also eat cloned beef – there is NO chemical difference.
Cloning animals can teach us a lot about genetics and development of animals with, probably, some practical applications down the line. I see no need – and apparently farmers don’t either – for mass production of cloned animals. Only animals targeted to be cloned will be champion breeders. And there is no way that Thorougbred racehorses will ever be cloned – even assisted fertilization (i.e., artificial insemination) is illegal (i.e, the animal will not be included in the Stud Book). So, only a few champion breeders from a couple of species (cows, I guess, perhaps sheep and pigs) will be cloned. This is good – to keep this at a minimum, at least for now – as the process of cloning produces a lot of sickly offspring, which raises ethical questions in itself.
We already have a virtual monoculture in both plant and animal production for food. Such lack of genetic variation is troublesome as a new diesase (or global warming) may quickly sweep through our herds and deplete our food supply very fast. Making the gene pool even more homogenous in order to raise the meat/milk productivity of our animals just a little bit does not, in my opinion, warrant a widespread use of cloning of domesticated animals. I’d rather support small farmers who purposefully keep rare, unusual breeds of animals like Old-Type Oldenburg horse, Curly Bashkir pony or Mangalitza pig – breeds that contain genes absent from our current gene pool of mass-produced animals and provide a reservoir of useful traits we may need in the future.
Update: On the other hand, a truly genetically modified animals mey be good: Mad Cow Breakthrough? Genetically Modified Cattle Are Prion Free!