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Jan 16, 2008 04:32 AM

FDA approves cloned beef...

As of this morning's news, the FDA has approved 'cloned beef' for sale at your local market...soon to be followed by restaurant kitchens. This is an historic change in the 'food basket' as we know it. Is this a good thing? What are the likely repercussions...

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  1. am I right that it doesn't need to be labelled as such?

    1 Reply
    1. re: smartie

      That is what I heard on the news program last night....they don't need to label.

      But then, for many years (decades?) our food has been irradiated and they don't have
      to label that either.

      My biggest complaint with these issues is that they should be required to let the consumer know so we can make our own choices. If it's so "safe" (irradiation, cloning) then give us the info and let us decide for ourselves.

    2. i don't know ( and i mean i don't know not being wise here) what the big deal is

      1. The FDA HAS NOT APPROVED cloned beef for sale either at your local market or for restaurant use. The FDA has merely made the statemnet that they feel, 'There's no evidence that meat or milk derived from healthy cloned farm animals can harm people...' Below is a link to an article from ''. Please read. Also from the article, and in reference to the above statement, "That doesn't mean Americans will be eating cloned meat any time soon, stressed Dr. Stephen Sundlof, the FDA's veterinary medicine chief."

        1 Reply
        1. re: crt

          crt and all..thanks for the clarification, though it does look like a food issue for the near future...the FDA is trying to set boundries.

        2. Also in the news report I heard was a statement that cloned animals are too valuable to use as anything other than breeding stock. Meat and products will come from offspring of the cloned animals.
          Initial ruling about labeling was that "cloned" labels will not be required, but that non-clone suppliers will be allowed to label their products as "not from cloned animals".

          1 Reply
          1. re: hannaone

            Exactly. Cloned animals still have to gestate the normal way, so there's no reason to clone an animal that's intended strictly to be eaten, when it's much cheaper to do it the "old fashioned" way. Some day, in the distant future, we may reach the point where animal flesh can be grown in a lab without ever being "alive" or even being part of an actual animal (I guess then PETA can stop pushing vegetarianism), but until then, cloning an embryo in a lab and then implanting it in a cow is always going to be more expensive then insemination (either artificial or natural).

            From what I read, the main interest in cloning is in replicating high-quality bulls that are in demand for artificial insemination; the clones will then produce semen, which will be used to produce offspring the regular way. I suppose a few of those clones might enter the food supply at some point, but even then, I don't see what the big deal is -- the whole point of cloning is that it's identical to the original, and even if there are some slight genetic imperfections, differences at the genetic level aren't going to make a difference at the level our bodies will digest them.

            Meat from a steer produced by a cow that was inseminated from a cloned bull? Do you really think that if the semen is okay enough to produce live offspring that there's going to be anything so mutant about the offspring that they'll be harmful to eat? I'd eat it without a second thought. But then, I'm more interested in science reality than scare tactics inspired by too many science FICTION stories.

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            1. kelli2006
              it has been said long before cloning that grilled meats are not healthy and may lead to things such as stomach cancer (and they say May ) god only really knows, but anyway
              there are no chemicals and all that bad stuff involved and a cloned animal can be raised organically could you expand on your thoughts here thanks

              1. re: foodperv

                What does grilling meat have to do with cloning??

                1. re: laguera

                  kelli2006 had stated she did not feel safe eating cloned meat and i was pointing out that grilled meat (regular meat) has more danger in it than cloned meat

              2. I am an early adopter and I welcome the opportunity to eat delicious, well marbled high tech meat in addition to GM fruits and vegetables. I have no interest in returning to medieval agricultural technology.

                1. The fruits and vegetables you buy are the results of genetic modification, successful crossing of various types until a stable cultivar with desirable traits is obtained. Work that formerly required years of growing seasons can now be accelerated through a quicker process of DNA genetic modification, technology that wasn't available when Mendel did his groundbreaking research.
                  The organic milk you buy is likely from a cow from a specific breed that was developed by crossing several types of cattle for specific genetic traits. It's a GM cow. Cattle breeding is not left to chance. The cow was also likely the product of artificial insemination (probably frozen sperm, the current norm) and has been artificially inseminated herself as part of the milk production cycle. The genetic traits of her offspring are being determined by the selection of the frozen semen.

                  1. re: MakingSense

                    Splicing in gene sequences in agriculture is still time consuming and expensive research used for things like improved plant protection from pests and diseases. Most fruit and vegetable consumer characteristics come from traditional breeding. Identification of useful genes and gene sequences is important. A higher anti-oxident cranberry has just been developed through traditional crossing--after the characteristic was identified in a little used variety. Plant tissue culture work--cloning--does speed up plant propagation and our ability to conduct research.

                  2. Kelli, can you give me one -- just one -- scientific (not emotional or socio-political) reason why meat from the offspring of cloned bulls would be unhealthy in any way?

                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                      Ruth, I'm not Kelli, but here are my concerns:

                      Say scientists haven't *actually* got this cloning thing down as well as they think they do. Given how new this whole process is, it wouldn't be too surprising. You're assuming that scientists are successfully making perfect clones. I wouldn't make that assumption. Say, for example, the clones yield some kind of genetic defect outside our current scope of detection that then gets passed down to the offspring that we eat.

                      I'd say in most cases, a genetic defect wouldn't affect us humans at the end of the food chain, but I can imagine some scenarios where it might. Say for example the defect made the cows less resistant to diseases that can then get passed on to people. Or say the defect made the cows less healthy for us to eat.

                      It certainly wouldn't be the first time the food industry put profits and marketing ahead of health and long-term sustainability. Once we introduce cloned animals into the general genetic pool, there's no going back. This isn't just about some "uncanny" feeling -- it's about potentially making a mistake that's uncorrectable in the future.

                      I'd also be concerned about the decrease in genetic diversity. In general, genetic diversity is a GOOD thing for any species. If we end up making all our beef from steer that are all clones of each other, the inbreeding effect on the herd as a whole is bound to be negative.

                      And to bring this all back to chowhound, I'd be willing to bet my house the cloned steer aren't being chosen for their delicious flavor. It's more likely to be some profit-driven quality like ability to live in a 5x5 pen and get fat eating the cheapest possible "food". I guarantee cloned meat will not lead to tastier meat -- only more efficient market processes.

                      1. re: oolah

                        While you arrive at it from a point of ignorance, your statement "yield some kind of genetic defect" actually has some merit. There does exist the possibility of mutations and such during the process - however, there really is no difference here compared to the au natural way in that there's always this potential in any offspring (ya know, that's how evolution works).

                        On your point about genetic diversity - agree & disagree. Agree w/ the potential for mishap. But really, we've been doing this for quite some time the natural way (and sometimes we pay for it, such as bananas in the 1950s). Look at turkeys these days if you want an example.

                        On your last point I'd agree & disagree. Agree that "delicious flavor" likely isn't the top priority. OTOH, a priority is going to be overall profit, and part of that profit involves highly marbled cuts of beef, etc.

                        1. re: jgg13

                          Thanks for assuming I arrived from a point of ignorance -- turns out you're missing my point.

                          Yes, genetic mutations happen in the course of evolution (which I'm aware of, thanks). What I'm saying is that scientists may be making an error that is currently undetectable so that it looks to them just like natural reproduction, but in fact leaves out some crucial unknown that is *different* from natural reproduction. Humans make mistakes, and this is a fairly new technique.

                          I'm not sure what you're trying to say about turkeys. Are you saying turkeys are better today because they have less genetic diversity?

                          As for the tastier meat, look at most industrial beef now vs grassfed. Its not nearly as delicious and it'll likely continue on that trajectory when the food industry can tweak every little quality. For the industry profit comes first, and for most people (not chowhounds) it's about putting cheap beef on the table, not flavor.

                          1. re: oolah

                            Yeah, it's funny how some people assume science is error-proof. While the scientists have come up to the conclusion that there's no harm from cloned meat at this moment, that may change down the years as they do further research, have better methods of evaluations, they know what they're looking for, etc.

                            However, with the issue of tastier meat, I feel that cloning will be used to produce meat that tastes better, at least in the short run. For example, I think that cloning will be used to produce cows that have a lot of marbling and other traits people deem desirable in beef. Companies will be able to charge a premium for this uniformly consistent delicious piece of beef.

                            Now, with that said, I'm not comfortable at this time eating a piece of meat from a cloned animal. If and when the time comes, you can avoid eating cloned meat by eating meat that is organic.

                            1. re: Miss Needle

                              cloning isn't very different from "natural" insemination. It is not genetic engineering (which im not really against either)... a clone is liek an identical twin.

                              the problem, seems to me, is this weird idea about the word "natural" means, as well as a religious fear of "playing god". We are part of nature.. we can only do that which the laws of nature allow.
                              If a beehive is natural, so is new york city.

                              1. re: thew

                                I'm not religious. So my hesitance of eating cloned meat does not stem from any fear of "playing god." I have my own reasons, as I'm sure others do. It's a personal decision. Where people draw the line as to what is natural and what is not is completely arbitrary, of course. For me, it has crossed the line.

                                1. re: Miss Needle

                                  Hey, that's fine. There are things I don't like to eat because I find the thought of it to be weird. My issue is just that the naysayers generally don't understand what's actually being done here and how/why it might (not) vary from what's already being done. IOW it just "sounds creepy" and people reject it immediately.

                            2. re: oolah

                              I was actually agreeing w/ you on the genetic diversity front, ie the turkey point.

                              And yes, my experience both in this thread and in general has been that people who object to cloning come in two forms (sometimes both): People who object on purely ethical grounds (e.g. religious reasons) and people who simply don't understand what it means.

                              I disagree that it wouldn't be used for better meat, I see this (at least initially) being used for things like wagyu beef and the like.

                              1. re: oolah

                                I think your argument might have slightly more merit if we were eating the cloned animal itself. But we're not. We're eating the offspring of a cloned animal, which means two things: the cloned animal has grown to adulthood and is healthy (and possibly even DNA tested -- I know if I were a rancher I'd require that before buying semen from a cloned bull), and that its genetic material is "normal" enough not to be rejected by the "normal" cow that it is inseminated with. Furthermore, the offspring get half their genetic material the "normal" way, which reduces the chances that unhealthy mutations will be reinforced in the offspring -- that's how evolution works, too: bad mutations get weeded out.

                                Finally, cloning is not genetic modification -- in fact, it's the opposite: the whole reason for cloning is so that the DNA from an animal that has proven to have desirable characteristics will *not* be modified, as it is in the normal reproductive process, which combines the DNA of the two animals.

                                If people want to base their decisions on the "weirdness factor" then that's their right and obviously nothing is going to change their minds. I just don't think irrational (not based on any fact) opinions should shape public policy.

                                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                  It is public policy. I am one of the public and so are many of those who replied in the negative. Personally, clone-away, but I want it clearly identified so I have that choice no matter what that choice is based on.

                                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                    Bad mutations only get weeded out when the animal's environment makes it less beneficial to have that mutation. If we encourage "bad" mutations (say, the ability to digest and process antibiotics better, or the ability to live in a 5x5 box) they don't go away. If it turns out that those mutations actually have adverse consequences to our health somewhere down the road, and we've limited the genetic pool to those very qualities, well then we're sort of screwed, aren't we?

                                    1. re: oolah

                                      Much of genetic "weeding out" occurs pre-natally from embryo formation onwards.

                                      1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                        Yep, you're totally right. And you and Ruth are also right in saying that by and large most of the nasty genetic defects will get naturally weeded out by the "bad" animals dying off before they reach reproductive age, or just not being able to reproduce. (thank goodness!)

                                        But I still hold that cloning makes it easier for

                                        a) traits that are perceived as good (but are actually bad in the long run) to be bred more quickly and easily than through natural reproduction


                                        b) traits that are bad in the long run to pass unnoticed due to some minor oversight or miscalculation on the part of the geneticist doing the cloning.

                                        And contrary to what some of the posters here are saying I've rarely seen advances in food science lead to tastier agricultural products. When I compare the industrialized produce and meat in my grocery store with the food I get at my local greenmarket, well, there's no contest which is more delicious. The industrial stuff may be more widely available, cheaper, more efficient, more convenient, and more hardy, but the flavor is *really* diminished. There's no reason to think that this "advance" will lead to anything different.

                                        1. re: oolah

                                          Most genetic abberations will lead to embyro loss prior to development.

                                          Cloning of animals wil not lead to faster breeding cycles.

                                          Geneticists don't do cloning. Again, cloning is a technique to manage whole gene sets--eggs and sperm--to produce, well, a clone. There is no "calculation". You clone an animal that is selected as desirable for whatever your criteria.

                                          As far as ag science leading to more delicious for YOU, ag science (public rather than private) is busy trying to feed more and more people globally on fewer resources in the face of pests, diseases, drought, and other stresses. Feel thankful that you can consume local greenmarket food.

                          2. If you eat corn and tomatoes, you are already eating franknen food. You don't think

                            If you eat corn and tomatoes, you are already eating franken food, You don't think modern fruits and vegetables are the same as their predecessors in the wild, do you?

                            1. re: mpalmer6c

                              Mpalmer, there is a vast chasm between the classic Mendelian crossbreeding and the succeeding H1 hybrids, to the cloning of fruits and veggies that add or subtract genetic material in labs that was never in the plants or animals ancestries.

                              I define Frankenfood as plants that have had genetic material added to them in the lab. You can now add or remove genetic material from plants or animals across natural boundaries.
                              I do not trust companies like Archer Daniels Midland, Monsanto and others agribusinesses to put customer health and long term safety over short-term profits. The fact that we can genetically modify food does in no way mean that we should. We need to learn more about this technology before we start to consume these lab experiments. If they are so sure of the safety of this technology, why do they refuse to label it as such?

                              The FDA has become a mouthpiece for companies that they should have a adversarial relationship with, so I don't want to learn in 10 years that they made a mistake.


                              1. re: Kelli2006

                                From what I've read, the cloning in question does not involve inserting corn genes (say) into animals, as you imply; it's strictly cattle-cattle, hogs-hogs, etc.

                                1. re: mpalmer6c

                                  I also do not know enough to say and the companies aren't being forthcoming enough that I feel safe consuming it.

                                  I want it to be labeled, so I can make a choice. I may be wrong, but I to make the choice. I will gladly become a vegetarian if this food isn't labeled.

                            2. How would avoiding meat from an animal that was bred from cloned animals lower people's health?

                              Please provide scientific reasoning and not hand waving.