Eating Dolly: Biotech animal/ethics

First, check out this Washington Post article explaining that the "FDA Is Set To Approve Milk, Meat From Clones."
Second, note that there's a symposium being held in DC tomorrow, "Animal Biotechnology: Considering Ethical Issues," sponsored by the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology and Michigan State University. My office-mate, Michael Rodemeyer -- he a Senior Consultant for the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology -- is moderating the event. So, while the two sides of the debate about animal biotech are reduced into newpaper story format at the WP to say that its (a) farmers and ag corporations who want to provide a consistent product and make a lot of money doing so versus (b) concerned citizens and other advocacy groups who think the ag people might not know so much about safety or the ethical issues as they claim, the Pew Symposium will devote far greater attention to those famous complexities of the issue.

Here's what Pew will be doing:

[The Symposum] will provide an overview of the ethical implications of creating and using cloned or genetically engineered animals in agriculture and of utilizing genetically engineered agricultural animals for biomedical or industrial purposes. Presentations will cover ethical frameworks and terminology and an overview of animal biotechnology, and there will be ample opportunity for participation by all attendees. Representatives of industry, academia, non-governmental organizations, religious groups, the media and policy leaders are encouraged to attend.

And here are those two sides of the debate reduced into newpaper story format (from the WP link above). On one side:

Farmers and companies that have been growing cloned barnyard animals from single cells in anticipation of a lucrative market say cloning will bring consumers a level of consistency and quality impossible to attain with conventional breeding, making perfectly marbled beef and reliably lean and tasty pork the norm on grocery shelves.

And on the other side:

But groups opposed to the new technology, including a coalition of powerful food companies concerned that the public will reject Dolly-the-Lamb chops and clonal cream in their coffee, have not given up.

On Thursday, advocacy groups filed a petition asking the FDA to regulate cloned farm animals one type at a time, much as it regulates new drugs, a change that would drastically slow marketing approval. Some are also questioning the ethics of a technology that, while more efficient than it used to be, still poses risks for pregnant animals and their newborns.

And here's a quote that I believe gets at the brunt of the matter:

"The government talks about being science-based, and that's great, but I think there is another pillar here: the question of whether we really want to do this," said Carol Tucker Foreman, director of food policy at the Consumer Federation of America.

Everyone will have an opinion on whether or not we should be doing this. How well-informed those opinions are is obviously another story. I'm glad that at least there are forums going ahead that allow the discussions to take place, rather than just assuming it's being taken care of, or that the solution to the debate will somehow come from finer technical calculations alone.

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