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FDA approves cloned meat
December 27, 2006 7:48 PM   Subscribe


 
Hooray for science! Boo to the anti-cloning bogeymen!
posted by Kickstart70 at 7:53 PM on December 27, 2006


"Excuse me, waiter, this tastes cloned. I want the real thing."
posted by strangeleftydoublethink at 8:08 PM on December 27, 2006 [1 favorite]


Most of us alive today would not be so if it weren't for cloned fruits, vegetables, grains and every other crop imaginable - and I also don't think that many of us reading and responding here can say we have never eaten an animal that wasn't specifically developed and raised to be completely indistinguishable from any of its forbears and siblings.

So yeah; while I consider myself as good a liberal as anyone else, the whole "frankenfood" as horrible bogey man thing leaves me a little underwhelmed.
posted by yhbc at 8:08 PM on December 27, 2006 [3 favorites]


If people want to eat cloned food, fine, go ahead. But it should be properly labeled as such, if only because I'd like to see far more transparency in food labeling (ie. where it's from, when it left the plant, which individuals handled it before packaging, etc.). Allowing agribusiness leeway to not label is probably not a good thing.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:10 PM on December 27, 2006


yhbc: hybrid plants are not cloned at the cellular level.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:11 PM on December 27, 2006


What, exactly, is so bad about cloned meat that it should be labeled?
posted by jmhodges at 8:13 PM on December 27, 2006


jimhodges: I don't care about the meat per se, but the fact that clearly the FDA was lobbied to drop the requirement. See above comment about transparency in food sourcing.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:15 PM on December 27, 2006


If people want to eat cloned food, fine, go ahead. But it should be properly labeled as such

"WARNING - This food product may be identical to other food products you have consumed."
posted by pyramid termite at 8:15 PM on December 27, 2006 [6 favorites]


Unintended consequences.
posted by stbalbach at 8:18 PM on December 27, 2006


should food be labeled if it from identical twins? I am also going to have to ask what is the possible 'danger' from cloned food.
posted by MrLint at 8:18 PM on December 27, 2006


Maybe if you would read.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:19 PM on December 27, 2006


I'm tired of eating the same thing every night.
posted by ColdChef at 8:21 PM on December 27, 2006 [4 favorites]


How about a kitchen appliance that is something like an electrode rod in a little sodium vat that you pour a slurry in and in a few hours you can harvest the meat tissue that magically forms around the electrode. Kind of like a home bread maker, only with meat.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:24 PM on December 27, 2006


(patent pending)
posted by Burhanistan at 8:25 PM on December 27, 2006


But a study released this month by the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology found that 64 percent of Americans are uncomfortable with animal cloning and that 43 percent believe food from clones is unsafe.

Based on...what, exactly? All the article seems to say is that people "think" the food is unsafe. Not the FDA, not scientists, not biologists. I blame George Lucas for giving clones a bad name.
posted by ColdChef at 8:26 PM on December 27, 2006


I've always found the Doublemint Twins right tasty.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 8:27 PM on December 27, 2006


How about a kitchen appliance that is something like an electrode rod in a little sodium vat that you pour a slurry in and in a few hours you can harvest the meat tissue that magically forms around the electrode. Kind of like a home bread maker, only with meat.

Fuck yeah. Magic Meat. Can't be worse than hot dogs.
posted by ColdChef at 8:28 PM on December 27, 2006


Will this usher in a resurgence in animal sacrifice?
posted by Burhanistan at 8:28 PM on December 27, 2006


From now on, I'm only eating Pop Tarts.
posted by dirigibleman at 8:29 PM on December 27, 2006


Pop Tarts with Magic Meat filler.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:30 PM on December 27, 2006


The cloned meat is just fine to eat, but that doesn't mean cloning isn't a danger. What happens when 90% of the animals in North American are only 5 genotypes? They might all be susceptible to the same disease, and then all will die. Whereas now, some are susceptible, but others (maybe not such good milkers) are immune.

We've already seen this in corn - the obsession with having uniform farming meant that som 70% or more of American corn was destroyed by the same disease in the 1970s, and the American corn industry had to be bailed out by Mexican corn, because they believe in having more variety in maize there.

If we start cloning animals, we have so much to lose in terms of genetic diversity. We'll also lose traits that might not seem important now, but might be important in the future. Right now, we want maximum milk or maximum meat production in cattle, but what if in 100 years we want hardiness to drought? We will have bred all the variety right out of the cattle, which will make it so much harder to change our breeding programs.

We need to protect diversity in our farm products - everyone loves to talk about biodiversity in the Amazon, but it's all the more important to us and our immediate survival that we have biodiversity in our agricultural plants and animals, because that is what keeps us alive. We can't afford to let the quick buck now destroy the wealth of genetic diversity which we have, and which we have bred into our plants and animals.
posted by jb at 8:31 PM on December 27, 2006 [21 favorites]


mmm a vat of caustic sodium!
posted by MrLint at 8:31 PM on December 27, 2006


Who cares? Seriously, why should this matter when the average chicken comes off the line covered in scads of it's own shit?
posted by docpops at 8:32 PM on December 27, 2006 [1 favorite]


Won't someone think about the animals and their basic needs to mount other animals? (or at least mount some industrial jizz catcher). Please, think of the horny animals.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:33 PM on December 27, 2006


If the world can stomach McNuggets, they can take Magic Meat.
posted by ColdChef at 8:33 PM on December 27, 2006


jb has the only decent point, and one which I deliberately ingored when I made my earlier comment. I knew that the lack of diversity was why we don't have bananas that are as tasty as they were a few generations ago, and the same thing could happen with other food crops, including meats.

However, that's not an argument against cloning per se, but it is a good argument for increasing the diversity of the types and varieties of the foods we all eat.

Which would also give ColdChef something different to eat from time to time.
posted by yhbc at 8:36 PM on December 27, 2006


So, yeah, I want cloned food labelled, because I want to take my consumer dollars away from an agricultural practice that I think is short sighted and extremely foolish. It's playing Russian roulette to go to clones of anything, whether plants (been done for centuries) or animals - you are just waiting to see if the next blight or the next disease is the one that wipes them all out. Cloning on a small scale (an orchard of Macintosh apples) is okay, but even there we're down to about 5 or 10 varieties of apples dominating the production, and that's worrying.

So bring back the 100s of apple varieties that have almost disapeered! (Many of which are stunningly delicious - you have no idea how wonderful if all you have ever had is one of the common varieties). Bring back maize varieties - maize that grows with lots of water, maize that grows with only a little.

And don't give up genetic diversity in animals. There is a reason sexual reproduction is used by almost all larger animals - it's more stable. You don't get a population which have all the same weaknesses as well as the same strengths.
posted by jb at 8:37 PM on December 27, 2006


And don't give up genetic diversity in animals. There is a reason sexual reproduction is used by almost all larger animals - it's more stable. You don't get a population which have all the same weaknesses as well as the same strengths.
posted by jb


Excellent point.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:40 PM on December 27, 2006


how to raise pigs
and how to grow food
and how to clean your dirt (taken from a New Orleans reconstruction effort):

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Mushrooms and Fungi (Mycoremediation)

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Bacteria
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Compost tea is easy! It's made from worm castings, compost using worms, dechlorinated water, molasses and air. Compost tea kits can be found at Common Ground's Pauline Street Distribution Center for checkout. A complete how-to booklet is included in the kit. Please call Kathryn at 406-431-8337 for more information about our compost tea lending program or for further details on how to set up a brewing station of your own.

nuf said
posted by 0of1 at 8:44 PM on December 27, 2006 [6 favorites]


Good argument jb - unless someone can counter it I think you win.
posted by vronsky at 8:46 PM on December 27, 2006


As far as a scientific basis of questioning cloned food... for some reason 276 of the organisms created in the process of trying to create Dolly the sheep didn't live. I think that's enough proof that maybe agribusiness might not really have any clue what they're doing and maybe the consumer ought to get to decide what they're going to eat. Sure, it's not as weird as inserting insect genes into corn but it isn't any more deserving of a pass on the labeling. And jb makes a good point about genetic diversity too.
posted by XMLicious at 8:51 PM on December 27, 2006


MetaFilter: MetaFilter.
posted by phaedon at 8:52 PM on December 27, 2006 [1 favorite]


Okay, I did some googling, and have corrected facts (I mixed up the first number with the second):

80% of corn in the US was of one variety in 1970, and the southern corn blight killed more than 12%

It cost 1 billion dollars - in 1970's dollars.

(1, 2 - esp last two paragraphs on the first page).

That is not something we ever want to happen again, or anything similar, if we can take simple measures to prevent it. And while I know that I have to buy cloned bananas and cloned apples (because that is the way you have to breed them, though I wish there were more varieties), there is no reason I need to buy cloned meat or milk products. The animals do a great job of breeding good quality offspring (unlike apples), and I want to use my consumer money to support farmers who are interested in genetic diversity.
posted by jb at 8:53 PM on December 27, 2006


side-note on the cultural front:

The good stuff (all right, especially in musici) is NOT the cloned stuff.

Consume the original if you know what's right for you. And the original branches out in all kinda strange and delicious ways.

No clones for me.
posted by kozad at 8:54 PM on December 27, 2006


I've eaten the meat from a single cow over the course of an entire year (bought in bulk in the fall). It had distinct characteristics in flavor, texture, color, etc.. I assume this sameness is something most people have never experienced - yet.
posted by stbalbach at 8:58 PM on December 27, 2006


jb makes good points ... it's all the unintelligent "frankenfoods" scare talk that annoys me
posted by pyramid termite at 9:01 PM on December 27, 2006


jb's point is well taken. With the right safeguards, cloned meat could be viable. Otherwise, it would be dangerous.

All of this, however, is a moot point when one considers the wonderful possibility of a ColdChef MagicMeatPot™
posted by eyeballkid at 9:07 PM on December 27, 2006 [1 favorite]


pyramid termite: it's all the unintelligent "frankenfoods" scare talk that annoys me

that's funny. it's all the unintelligent "cloned food, what's the big deal?" talk that annoys me.
posted by mijuta at 9:12 PM on December 27, 2006


http://www.slowfoodusa.org/ark/heritage_apples.html

http://www.southmeadowfruitgardens.com/

These are just two of many places that are preserving older and other unusual varieties of fruit trees.

Everyone that is complaining about cloned food ought to just start growing their own food. At least a few plants in pots, probably not fruit trees but salad food, spinach, lettuce, radishes, etc.
posted by Jumpin Jack Flash at 9:20 PM on December 27, 2006


.
posted by 31d1 at 9:25 PM on December 27, 2006


that's funny. it's all the unintelligent "cloned food, what's the big deal?" talk that annoys me.

next thing you know, we'll be cloning each other's statements to make it more apparent what we're replying to

(by the way ... just how is an identical copy of something less safe than the original? ... how do you tell them apart? ... you kind of need to explain that part, don't you?)
posted by pyramid termite at 9:31 PM on December 27, 2006


Meh. I don't think this goes far enough, cloned meat still at some point is coming from an animal. I look forward to the day where the majority of meat is vat grown. No more sending animals to the slaughter, controls and testing for disease (hey, it could happen,) and less of a need to dedicate huge tracts of land to the production of our food.

As a plus, to address jb's excellent points, since it's vat grown, any number of different specimens could be kept on hand to make certain that some level of diversification would be available in the event of some kind of catastrophe.

And not only would I suggest labeling this meat as not from a live animal, I would build my advertising around it.

[Not a vegetarian, but married to one. So I think about these things.]
posted by quin at 9:38 PM on December 27, 2006 [2 favorites]


jb writes "The cloned meat is just fine to eat, but that doesn't mean cloning isn't a danger. What happens when 90% of the animals in North American are only 5 genotypes? They might all be susceptible to the same disease, and then all will die. Whereas now, some are susceptible, but others (maybe not such good milkers) are immune."

Sincere question, since I don't really know agricultural zoology: isn't this already basically the case? I was under the impression that agricultural animals (within a specific breed) have very low genetic diversity as it is. It's not quite to the point of research mouse lines (which are essentially clones produced by controlled inbreeding), but it's close.

Frankly, I don't see the advantage of cloned animals to agriculture. Standard breeding techniques have already produced animals with remarkably predictable traits.
posted by mr_roboto at 9:39 PM on December 27, 2006


I always wondered about that vat grown meat. I'm sure it's possible to make that taste great, but maybe there's some part of me and every other carnivore that appreciates the random bits of bone or gristle in my slab of meat. Without them, you could just slap the thing in a blender and do away with the entire eating process altogether.
posted by Clamwacker at 9:41 PM on December 27, 2006


Baa, cuuuuull her, she's the reeeeeal Flossie, baaa!
posted by Pollomacho at 9:48 PM on December 27, 2006


Labels are for pussies.
posted by delmoi at 9:52 PM on December 27, 2006


I WISH pussies had labels. "Best before 1997"
posted by ColdChef at 9:55 PM on December 27, 2006 [3 favorites]


If the world can stomach McNuggets, they can take Magic Meat.
posted by ColdChef at 11:33 PM EST on December 27


Now wait a minute. Chicken McNuggets are the Face of God. When they're fresh, which is almost never. When they've been sitting under a heatlamp for hours they may taste like fake meat in fried cardboard, sure, but if you keep trying, day after day, year after year, you'll eventually get some straight out of the frier. It happened to me once.

Everything else there sucks horrifically, though.
posted by stavrogin at 9:58 PM on December 27, 2006


oh my god, cold chef you did NOT just go there ...
posted by pyramid termite at 10:01 PM on December 27, 2006


just how is an identical copy of something less safe than the original?

If the kind of clones they're talking about were really identical in every physical way, yeah they'd be no more or less safe. But they're at best talking about something that's only genetically identical, quite possibly made with processes like interspecies nuclear transfer. What happens in the long term when you produce a sheep that has the ooplasm and mitochondrial DNA of a cow? No one knows.

Or, for example, what if prions (the things that cause mad cow disease, proteins that re-fold other proteins) take part in the normal production of proteins in some organisms and in the course of cloning we create organisms that lack those prions or have the wrong ones?

Medical prudence makes us very careful about labelling - we label foods that may have been manufactured in a facility where peanuts were processed, for example. I'm not a biologist but I know enough about biology to see that there's no way science could be certain enough of the answers to the above types of questions to oppose labeling. It's not science that's opposing labeling, it's agribusiness marketing that's opposing it.
posted by XMLicious at 10:04 PM on December 27, 2006


"no labels necessary"
as an ingredient fanatic, i like to know what's in there, but i'm afraid that this is not the worst.
the government has already clamped down on dairy farms which advertise that their product contains no bgh, antibiotics, etc., on the bogus ground that this might confuse the consumer into thinking that the product in question is somehow safer than the other dairy products on the shelf (and really to protect the big agribusinesses that make those products).
what i'm afraid of is government regulation prohibiting an old-fashioned farmer from advertising that his beef is made from authentic, natural-born animals. in case you hadn't noticed, freedom of speech has frayed a little in the past few years, along with all our other civil rights.
i don't always agree with oprah winfrey, but i thought she was a heroine for taking on the beef industry (which sued her under so-called "veggie libel" laws).
as a consumer, i'm not easily confused, but i am easily insulted.
posted by bruce at 10:06 PM on December 27, 2006


XMLicious - Peef and Bork are the first two things that come to mind.
posted by Clamwacker at 10:17 PM on December 27, 2006


I'm waiting for the vat-grown meat slabs -- no brains, no nervous systems: no pain, no cruelty. A carnivore carnival!

And hey, don't tell me you haven't wondered what long pork tastes like. Mmmm humalicious!
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:23 PM on December 27, 2006


I'm confused, these clones just sprout somewhere fully grown? I was under the impression that they were just like regular born and raised farm animals, except not on the celular level when they were blastocysts implated in their host mother (as opposed to having her artificially inseminated).
posted by Pollomacho at 10:26 PM on December 27, 2006


(by the way ... just how is an identical copy of something less safe than the original? ... how do you tell them apart? ... you kind of need to explain that part, don't you?)

no, i think the onus of explanation rests on the shoulders of pro-cloning proponents. i'm not the one advocating for tampering with mother nature here. the FDA could care less about real food safety--time and time again they put corporate greed over legitimate health considerations. the least they could do is require labels listing where the food freaking comes from so people can make an informed choice.
posted by mijuta at 10:27 PM on December 27, 2006


(by the way ... just how is an identical copy of something less safe than the original? ... how do you tell them apart? ... you kind of need to explain that part, don't you?)

I'll take up the mantle on this; cloning, at this point is not an actual 'identical copy'. Take Dolly for instance; they cloned and adult ewe and came up with a child that was for all intents and purposes an adult at the cellular level. True, there could have been many mitigating factors that lead to the end conclusion: 'clone something old and you will end up with something old', but people need to appreciate that it is a possible repercussion.

Now in terms of food animals, that might not be an issue, but how many other things about cloned animals do we not know?

I am in no way against the idea of eating cloned food, but it's silly to dismiss out of hand that there might be drawbacks to this kind of production. We are just in the process of learning this brand new science [as it relates to mammals] and it should behoove us to be careful.
posted by quin at 10:47 PM on December 27, 2006


And yeah, what mijuta said is good too.
posted by quin at 10:49 PM on December 27, 2006


What, exactly, is so bad about cloned meat that it should be labeled?

 • Using current techniques, cloned animals have a damaged genomic copy of the original, so what exactly is the damage and how might this endanger the product? Is this effect consistent and can it be offset with some therapy to reduce potential side effects? The answers do not yet exist, but corporations have already decided the safety issue without them.

• Labeling aside, cloned animals reduce genetic diversity. Monocultures are less disease resistant, requiring greater administration of antibiotics. Antibiotics are an allergen for some, and by increasing bacterial resistance they reduce effectiveness as a general drug therapy for humans and other animals.

 • Lack of oversight over these and other technologies reinforce corporate control over public health policy. Food safety is not a matter for shareholders to nickel and dime, but rather for individuals in the health sciences field to dictate to food producers who wish to sell to consumers in the US market. Open labeling policy would help re-establish the trust-based relationship that should exist between consumer and government.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:58 PM on December 27, 2006 [2 favorites]


"... just how is an identical copy of something less safe than the original? ... how do you tell them apart?"

My God, man! Have we learned nothing from Evil Spock and Jeff "Eats His Own Vomit" Goldblum? How do you tell them apart? By their goatees and sloughed-off human body parts shall you know them...
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:10 PM on December 27, 2006


What I would really like is a label indicating whether or not the animal was humanely raised, or in some absolutely horrific factory farm. But that's a completely separate issue: an issue of ethics.

Cloning animals, if we ever can pull it off in a commercially viable way, would only multiply the host of problems already already faced from our mass factories of near-cloned animals: aesthetically, the food is awful. The current fad of brining our Christmas and/or Thanksgiving Day turkeys is a direct testament to the delicious, incapacitating success of our oh-so-modern methods. The stress from crowding, confinement, and boredom produces hormones which produce acids which, after slaughtering, turn the flesh into foul liquid mush.

It's expensive to produce, with an ever decreasing cost/benefit curve. The animals are bred from gossamer lines of stock to maximize bulk at the expense of taste and texture--which, along with the close confinement and stress, requires massive, continuous doses of antibiotics just to keep them alive, vastly reducing our borrowed time before an epidemic from some ferocious super-bug, etc.

But this really has nothing to do with cloning, in and of itself. Even that idyllic county, family farm can be a horrorfest. On just such an Amish farm where I grew up, the farmer was unspeakably brutal to his cows. It's not so much a matter of what you do, but rather, how you do it.

But I can't see, at this point in time, cloning being used in any fashion other than to vastly dwarf the evil in what we eat. Is a label so big a deal? If I can't do anything else, I want to vote with my dollar. I want a label.

There was an excellent article in Harper's in the last year or so about factory pig farming, but I can't find it online. This is a nice collection, though.
posted by cytherea at 12:04 AM on December 28, 2006 [1 favorite]


Oh shoot--I forgot to mention one of the most striking things from that Harper's article: so fearful is the prospect of a pathogen on those near monocultured animal "farms" that the reporter was only allowed, and with great reluctance, to enter the complex on condition that he wear one of those bunny suits, complete with bubble helmet.
posted by cytherea at 12:16 AM on December 28, 2006


I blame George Lucas for giving clones a bad name.

I blame David Rorvik.
posted by Tube at 12:17 AM on December 28, 2006


What I would really like is a label indicating whether or not the animal was humanely raised, or in some absolutely horrific factory farm. But that's a completely separate issue: an issue of ethics.

That really depends on someone's view of "horrific" and "unspeakably brutal." More of an issue of symantics and point of view as there really isn't one ethos in this area. Did the farmer feal he was being brutal? Would the large percentage of Americans that have lived or worked on farms consider a particular farm "horrific?"

What is the difference between subjective labeling then and advertising? Would "cruelty free" be any more acurate than "delicious?"
posted by Pollomacho at 12:19 AM on December 28, 2006


He used to beat the cows that didn't bend to his will with a lead pipe. In anger. And sometimes, for no reason at all.

Call it what you want.

I doubt there could be a set of guidelines or a level of inspection that's completely objective or verifiable. But what would you have? None at all? A return to the world of Sinclair Lewis? Unchecked feces, flies, and filth in our food? There's probably a happy medium, and I think the test of whether or not we're hitting it would be how a person felt about the food they eat were they more fully informed.
posted by cytherea at 1:01 AM on December 28, 2006 [1 favorite]


First off, wow, I cannot spell. Sorry.

Next, feces and filth have an objective and measurable level of acceptability and health in food (somewhere near zero), however cruelty and horror are not particularly measurable by an objective standard. Sure pipe beatings go beyond a rational line into the realm of animal cruelty, but brief stints feed lots don't necessarily. It's harder to quantify horror.
posted by Pollomacho at 1:34 AM on December 28, 2006


I SAID, I WANT A PIECE OF (wendy) MEAT!

(see, that was Rudy Rucker and Negativland together right there).
posted by sourwookie at 1:50 AM on December 28, 2006


First off, wow, I cannot spell. Sorry.

The naked mistake is so much better than those chalk-and-blackboard-grating corrections people feel compelled to offer. I could go on and on. Look! Two of my inane topics of interest in one thread!

cruelty and horror are not particularly measurable by an objective standard.

Well, you're right. In the context of people in slums surviving by scavenging garbage mountains, animal suffering doesn't matter so much.

But the ethics of animal treatment are my thing. Had I some reasonable assurance of humane treatment, I would jump at the chance to eat meat more regularly. You're right--it's a completely subjective issue. People should make up their own minds. I'm not going to judge their decisions.

But you can't make an ethical choice if you don't know what's involved. And I think we can establish some reasonably objective measurement of animal treatment--without using words like "horrific" or "unspeakable". We used to do it with prisoners of war, until recently. (I know. But I couldn't help myself.)

Factory farming (even without the cloning) is a problem on purely practical grounds: taste, variety, health, environment, economics, and so on. But this others have said all this so much better.
posted by cytherea at 2:38 AM on December 28, 2006


Sincere question, since I don't really know agricultural zoology: isn't this already basically the case? I was under the impression that agricultural animals (within a specific breed) have very low genetic diversity as it is. It's not quite to the point of research mouse lines (which are essentially clones produced by controlled inbreeding), but it's close.

I'm not a biologist or a zoologist either, just a historian who has done a lot of reading and attended talks on agriculture and biodiversity (by biologists). But monocropping is a serious issue: the Irish famine was much more severe because there was only one kind of potato, along with the Southern Corn blight of 1970. More on genetic erosion.

With animals, I don't know what the effect of reducing a herd to a few "individuals" would mean, especially if those individuals are already closely related. But it would seem to me that the shared vulnerability to diseases would be greatly increased, and that is bad news for everyone.
posted by jb at 3:57 AM on December 28, 2006


Here's what I don't understand: why is the risk of a monoculture so under emphasized. I read through that Boston Globe article expecting it to come up, but it didn't. Then the comments on this thread didn't mention it at all until jb's interjection.

I'm hardly a biologist, but the first thing I thought of when I saw that headline was "what about the risks of a monoculture?" (maybe because I occasionally follow the computer security world, which sometimes uses biological monocultures as an analogy). Why didn't the journalist for the Boston Globe cover this? Why is awareness of the issue even on MetaFilter so low?

And most importantly of all, why isn't the agriculture business talking about it? If it could potentially wipe out their entire business and/or cost them billions, shouldn't they be a little more concerned?
posted by simonw at 5:11 AM on December 28, 2006


yhbc = you have been cloned
posted by localhuman at 5:56 AM on December 28, 2006 [1 favorite]


And most importantly of all, why isn't the agriculture business talking about it? If it could potentially wipe out their entire business and/or cost them billions, shouldn't they be a little more concerned?

I'm guessing it's a bit like GM seed - so many stood to make money on the sales, and did so, but when the shit would hit the fan (as it did from time to time), it was the farmers involved in the incident that got shafted - the fallout didn't go up the chain. All the "talk" (PR, lobbying, marketing, etc) comes from companies higher up the economic food-chain - it's not their businesses at risk from monoculture. It's the farmer's. And hell, even if worst comes to worst, what are people going to do - stop growing food?

Monoculture? Wot they worry? :)
posted by -harlequin- at 5:57 AM on December 28, 2006


I'm tired of this misguided war on TERROIR!.
posted by stet at 7:06 AM on December 28, 2006 [1 favorite]


ColdChef writes "that 43 percent believe food from clones is unsafe."

I wonder if any of them eat bananas?

stavrogin writes "if you keep trying, day after day, year after year, you'll eventually get some straight out of the frier. "

Easy to get fresh nuggets, just order 2-20 pieces. They never have that much on hand so you have to wait and you get them right from the fryer.
posted by Mitheral at 7:56 AM on December 28, 2006


Y’know who was stupid? The Irish. They were some stupid, stupid bastards. Dumb like rocks those Irish were. Yessir.
Particularly around 1845 and 1849. Stupid bastards. All their fault. Nothing to do with the social situation, business exploitation, and exporting hundreds of thousands of gallons of dairy products and such to England (et.al) during a famine. These things are very cut and dried (Like the Jewish Oxygen Famine of 1939 - 1945) - although to be fair, I did hang around St. Pat’s in Chicago a bit too much.
(Worried that if I leave it at “the irish are stupid” without the hyperbole some folks might take it seriously and miss the nuance...although hell, who’s going to go educate themselves on the ‘potato famine’ as an analogous situation socio-economically? Metafilter: this ain’t school.)

“But what would you have? None at all? A return to the world of Sinclair Lewis? Unchecked feces, flies, and filth in our food?”

Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?
(Germans?) (Forget it, he’s on a roll)

I’d rather be Jurgis Rudkos than Babbitt... (with monoculture goodness)
Meh, Arrowsmith, close enough.
Also: "Advertising is a valuable economic factor because it is the cheapest way of selling goods, particularly if the goods are worthless" - Lewis.

So, not far off from The Jungle really.
posted by Smedleyman at 9:18 AM on December 28, 2006


simonw - I don't know why. (Obviously I care about it, or I wouldn't be such a broken record). It's the main objection to GM that I have heard from scientists or social scientists who study agricultural policy.

I do feel like the debate on GM and cloning in agriculture has been stymied by being dominated by the "frankenfood" arguments, because, though they sometimes have some validity (transferrance of pesticide resistance to wild plants, for example), for the most part they are just playing off fear. Which in turn makes a whole lot of people (like people in this thread, and my husband) think that there are no serious objections to GM and cloning in agriculture.

And the debate doesn't focus on all of the other issues: loss of bio/genetic diversity, the focus on only certain desirable traits to the detriment of others (like production over hardiness or drought resistence), and the legal and economic structure (giving multinational corporations the upper hand in their dealings with farmers, even a stranglehold eventually).

These things are being talked about by professionals - but why not in the public? Maybe because they aren't simple - I just scrape basic understanding of them, and I've been attending university seminars and reading articles on the issues. Maybe it's because they don't lend themselves to eye-grabbing cartoons like the image of a tomato with bolts coming out of it. Maybe because it's too much work to do the research rather than just get a bunch of quotes at the local supermarket. I don't know.
posted by jb at 9:20 AM on December 28, 2006


Y’know who was stupid? The Irish. They were some stupid, stupid bastards. Dumb like rocks those Irish were. Yessir.

well, at least we weren't ENGLISH

seriously, thank you all for answering my question ... it seems as though cloning is not as straightforward a thing as that article led me to believe it was, so i'll consider all that ...
posted by pyramid termite at 9:33 AM on December 28, 2006


ps - this is not a pro-cloning argument but the human race has been "tampering with mother nature", including genetics, ever since agriculture was invented, so i don't think that's a very good way of refuting agricultural technology
posted by pyramid termite at 9:39 AM on December 28, 2006


ps - this is not a pro-cloning argument but the human race has been "tampering with mother nature", including genetics, ever since agriculture was invented, so i don't think that's a very good way of refuting agricultural technology

I'm not "anti-agricultural technology" and neither was I refuting it. This isn't about "agricultural technology," it's specifically about cloning mammals for food production. You made a simplistic assessment that cloning is copying one version for another and therefore inferred that it doesn't seem like it could have harmful consequences, and then you asked those who disagree with this assessment to explain to you how that's dangerous. My response was that it's not up to people who are wary of cloning mammals to explain to you how it could be dangerous.

Earlier you wrote "it's all the unintelligent 'frankenfoods' scare talk that annoys me." I think it's healthy to be wary and questioning of what is being done to our food sources, and I find much more intelligent talk going on about why we shouldn't blindly accept modified food than why we should.
posted by mijuta at 10:01 AM on December 28, 2006


Sorry, there was a poorly worded sentence that changed the meaning I was intending. Here's what I meant:

You made a simplistic inference that cloning doesn't seem like it could have harmful consequences because it is just copying one version for another, and then you asked those who disagree with this assessment to explain to you how that's dangerous.
posted by mijuta at 10:09 AM on December 28, 2006


This isn't about "agricultural technology," it's specifically about cloning mammals for food production

sigh ... are we playing semantics now? ... you were arguing with slogans - the other people who answered my question did better than that
posted by pyramid termite at 10:19 AM on December 28, 2006


Can I be cloned for food? I am probably delicious.
posted by ninjew at 12:17 PM on December 28, 2006


I’m cloned: Eat Me.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:19 PM on December 28, 2006


sigh ... are we playing semantics now? ... you were arguing with slogans - the other people who answered my question did better than that

sigh. if you don't want semantics thrown in your face, don't mis-quote what other people say. this is more than about slogans.
posted by mijuta at 12:23 PM on December 28, 2006


“well, at least we weren't ENGLISH”

Yeah, that’s what strikes me about the similarity in the situation. You had the food sellers/exporters pushing the imperials to allow exports, a one crop pony going on, and myriad other intangibles that seem to replicate the same set of circumstances - the information asymmetry most particularly.

I’d be happy as a clam eating Jetsons food, but I’m awfully wary about the motives of any group of folks trying to keep information out of my hands. It’s a complex topic tho. And I’ll be damned if I know even half of what the upshot is. But that’s the thing, the more I know, the better off I’ll be (all things being equal).

There are, f’rinstance, federal laws mandating funeral directors must provide a client a list of prices. I didn’t know that until recently - and you gotta wonder why that law is there.
Didn’t Tyson get in trouble back in the Clinton era for dumping all sorts of vile crap into people’s drinking water? Now you gotta wonder - who would lobby against the pure water act? Everyone wants clean water don’t they? Well...no, apparently not. Knowlege is power. Disproportion in knowlege is profit. Sometimes that’s the result of hard work, sometimes it’s ‘cause someone doesn’t mind poisoning you to make a buck.
You gotta get your own back.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:40 PM on December 28, 2006


Burhanistan:
"How about a kitchen appliance that is something like an electrode rod in a little sodium vat that you pour a slurry in and in a few hours you can harvest the meat tissue that magically forms around the electrode."

It's called gyro.
posted by dozo at 1:03 PM on December 28, 2006


jb wrote "With animals, I don't know what the effect of reducing a herd to a few 'individuals' would mean, especially if those individuals are already closely related."

See European royal families for an example. Recessive genes galore. Hemophilia and other wonderful maladies. A bigger gene pool is always a good thing. See also dog breeds - mutts are nearly always healthier than the "purebred" (=inbred) dogs.

But honestly, cloned meat? Why the hell is this even a debate? It isn't going to happen whether or not it is approved. Why? Because cloning an animal is REALLY HARD and REALLY EXPENSIVE. Cloning a carrot is damn easy - get a carrot cell, drop it into a nutrient agar, grow a plantlet, grow that into a new carrot. Done. But an animal, a mammal especially? You must start by harvesting unfertilized eggs (which usually means treating the female with hormones to prompt egg release). Mammal eggs are small, and are internally stored. Hard to get. Once you have them, you need to nuke the existing DNA using X rays. Next, you inject a nucleus from a donor animal. Not just any nucleus will do. You need one that has been shocked and chemically treated to get it out of G0 (the normal dormant state) and back into G1 (the ready-to-begin-copying-DNA state). (If the nucleus and the egg aren't both in the same mitotic state, it's a no-go. They have to match - this was the breakthrough that led to Dolly.) Usually this is done by growing donor cells in a dish for a bit and running them through a series of treatment protocols.

Once you finally have the precious egg, with a new nucleus inserted, you need a surrogate mom. The same success rate as we have with this in humans applies - some eggs implant and grow, some don't. Genetic issues with the cloned embryos also crop up - for whatever reason, genes important to development are quite often permanently turned off and our current level of skill doesn't always turn them back on again, so there are quite a number of self-aborting cloned embryos and many more that die shortly after birth. If you do get one that grows normally and then is born, you will be left with the usual wait for the animal to mature enough that you can harvest it. All this for a cow that tastes just like the last cow you ate? Right.

Putting the cost aside, the success rate for cloning is somewhere along the lines of 1 in 1000 to 1 in 300 for mammals (depending on species). You give a beef rancher the decision between a 1 in 500 success rate vs. the normal methods of artificial insemination - one ejaculate sample from a bull can inseminate 500 or more dairy cattle, and in the 1970's AI was used for nearly 50% of all cattle raised, a tried and true method - what do you think the rancher will choose?

Who the hell would eat cloned meat if cloned meat costs hundreds of dollars a pound? As far as I am concerned, the current "debate" is due to one of two things: either (A) a scare tactic from anti-cloning people, or (B) the coning proponents know more than they are letting on, and it is a pre-emptive measure to make it easier for the public to accept something else entirely.
posted by caution live frogs at 1:05 PM on December 28, 2006 [2 favorites]


caution live frogs that was a well-informed and well-reasoned comment.
Going from the article tho: “Many ranchers and dairy producers have already cloned animals for meat and milk production... Though cloning is expensive -- Coleman paid $60,000 to clone First Down -- producers have embraced it for the efficiencies it can bring to a farm or ranch.”

In addition the arguments for labeling seem not to address the scientific basis of the report, or rather, ask for more testing in addition to asserting that "Some people only drink free trade coffee. Others only choose organic food. Others choose halal or kosher food. This product, which causes great discomfort to a great number of people, goes on the market with no labeling that enables me to make a choice.”

From a scientific position there’s not a problem (given of course the FDA isn’t letting this slide because of lobbying etc). But from a social one, bit of a tougher sell. We were labeling food irradiated with gamma rays for a bit there. So it might be inevitable, but what’s the rush to knock off the labels?
posted by Smedleyman at 2:21 PM on December 28, 2006


If people want to eat cloned food, fine, go ahead. But it should be properly labeled as such, if only because I'd like to see far more transparency in food labeling

I'd support that only if there were no grandfather clause and all food that was cloned, or produced from cloned plants or animals (ie wines) had to be labeled with a big red C superimposed on a biohazard symbol superimposed on a skull and crossbones above a legend reading "WARNING: LARK'S VOMIT."

The whole thing seems a bit silly given that the main problem in American animal agriculture seems to maintaining prices in the face of high production, and given that you should be able to achieve very nearly the same effects with plain-old line breeding.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:07 PM on December 28, 2006


Freedom of choice? Freedom?
posted by 31d1 at 8:54 PM on December 28, 2006


MetaFilter: One Ejaculate Sample From a Bull Can Inseminate 500 Or More Dairy Cattle

(however, upon further reflection, perhaps I don't really understand that meme.)
posted by XMLicious at 1:13 AM on December 29, 2006


NYT version of the article
posted by XMLicious at 2:20 AM on December 29, 2006


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