Angry Toxicologist

So the FDA says that cloned meat is safe and this is making big news. Well, this isn’t much of a surprise, it’s unlikely that a clone would be unsafe (it’s a clone of a naturally healthy animal!). What sucks is the media’s take on this (and the government’s complicity in them getting it wrong). Almost all the outlets take the line: Gov’t says no problems with cloned beef. What they actually said was cloned meat isn’t any different from a safety and nutrition perspective. There’s a big gap there.

For one, this is a long term mistake for the ag community. The already small gene pool for cattle (and swine) in this country is going to look like a puddle soon. What happens if the champion milk or beef producing animals turn out to be susecptable to mad cow or similar nasty diseases that we don’t always notice right away in animals? Whoops! There goes the industry! By limiting the pool we increase the chances of disease and decrease the chances of breeding better animals. A thought experiment: Take a small group of people who are the cream of the crop and only allow them to have children with each other and their children to do the same and think how it would turn out. Oh, we actually did that.

It may be safe, but it sure is stupid.

PS I haven’t seen the report yet but the FDA’s methods don’t seem too stringent. One thing they did was ‘observation’. “Gee Chuck, the cow looks fine to me, how about we go inside for another bottle of Jack Daniel’s?”. Can we get the food safety out of the FDA and into a new agency already!?

Comments

  1. #1 Mike
    January 16, 2008

    Wow, that is a great point. You should do some sort of regular feature where you rate the press on how well they report scientific issues!

  2. #2 Mike
    January 16, 2008

    I question that the cattle industry has a small gene pool.
    1. There are over 50 different breeds of cattle in the US.
    2. There is viable semen from the 1940′s on of older genetics which serve as a reservoir.
    3. There are viable embryos from the 1980′s on which serve as a reservoir.

    A smaller working gene pool would benefit the beef industry from a product quality standpoint. Supposedly, repeated studies have found that inconsistency is the biggest problem facing beef consumers’ perception of beef.

  3. #3 Zena
    January 16, 2008

    Hmmm….I’m curious….what does religious people who only eat ‘Kosher’ food think about this?

  4. #4 Dave Briggs
    January 17, 2008

    One thing they did was ‘observation’. “Gee Chuck, the cow looks fine to me, how about we go inside for another bottle of Jack Daniel’s?”.

    I think this is a topic that is going to be around for a while. At least until years of research and “observation” prove it’s safe and wise.
    Dave Briggs :~)

  5. #5 Kaleberg
    January 26, 2008

    The incest analogy isn’t quite right. In incest, there is close genetic crossing and recrossing, so recessive problems come out in front quite often. With cloning, there is no sex, no crossing, so what you got, you get.

    The big downside of cloning is that you get a complete monoculture. Every cow being grown for food will be genetically identical. When hoof and mouth disease hits, it will have a clear field. Even our current system, in which a very small number of breeds, are used for meet, gives our herds some genetic diversity to resist infection, and to provide a basis for future breeding.

    While there are many breeds of cattle, only a handful of them are bred for supermarket and industrial beef. I live out in farm country, so people might raise a small herd of this or that variety, but the big herds that feed the nation are all of the same breed. If a breed loses its cult following, we lose genetic information that might be useful for fighting disease or for following consumer tastes.

    Another downside of cloning is that it will naturally be pushed to an extreme. There is no point in getting a 50% improvement when we can squeeze out 60 or 70. Obviously, the cloners will try to work from the earliest cells in the line, but these need to be cloned themselves for industrial use. Animal cloning usually involves transferring the nuclei into ordinary egg cells, but we don’t know the long term stresses that this process may cause. For all I know, everything will work out hunky dory.

  6. #6 Pieter B
    January 28, 2008

    The subject of cloning cattle came up on Real Time with Bill Maher a week ago Friday, causing country boy Trace Adkins to ask “Did cows stop f***in’?”

    Until they do, I’m not gonna worry about it. I’ll be dead before cloning is remotely affordable.

  7. #7 ssk
    April 23, 2009

    I question that the cattle industry has a small gene pool.
    1. There are over 50 different breeds of cattle in the US.
    2. There is viable semen from the 1940′s on of older genetics which serve as a reservoir.
    3. There are viable embryos from the 1980′s on which serve as a reservoir.

    A smaller working gene pool would benefit the beef industry from a product quality standpoint. Supposedly, repeated studies have found that inconsistency is the biggest problem facing beef consumers’ perception of beef.

  8. #8 Abercrombie
    November 30, 2009

    Another downside of cloning is that it will naturally be pushed to an extreme. There is no point in getting a 50% improvement when we can squeeze out 60 or 70. Obviously, the cloners will try to work from the earliest cells in the line, but these need to be cloned themselves for industrial use. Animal cloning usually involves transferring the nuclei into ordinary egg cells, but we don’t know the long term stresses that this process may cause. For all I know, everything will work out hunky dory.