Sunday, January 20, 2008

Cloned democracy

"Cloned piglets with jellyfish genes (available as a starter or a main course). Given the choice, what would you rather eat? A steak from a Belted Galloway that had spent the best part of a fulfilling life nibbling grass and licking fence posts in the Scottish Borders - or eating the exact same beast, from the exact same place only this one started life as a clone produced by laboratory scientists?

Which would you plump for? In America this is a choice consumers might soon be able to make. The US Food and Drug Administration this week declared cloned food is fit for human consumption. But, who'd want to eat it?

For over three years the FDA has declared cloned meat safe. If you have the time, the FDA say the thousand page draft risk assessment document will now prove to you just how safe it is. Cloned meat may well be a genetic match for its natural relative, it may even taste the same. However, as the Wichita Eagle put it there is a significant "ick" factor at work here."
(Thanks Karim)

I've blogged about this issue a while ago. I figure that a lot of the US meat is going to be cloned soon. This will be the food of the poor. The rich will be able to afford the premium paid for "all natural". Capital wins on both counts. Isn't that amazing? Lebanon is of course more "democratic" as in the absence of any food labeling regulations, both rich and poor eat the same thing. Who said we could learn democracy from the US? In fact, the poor, especially those with rural roots or in rural areas, still eat better. Yesterday I had a great breakfast in my village: beid baladi (local free range eggs) fried in olive oil and kishk from my cousin's cows and his wheat and markouk bread (but I think the flour might have been mixed with Russian wheat flour, which is probably OK). Seriously, I sometimes feel I'm a tool with my work of natural and healthy foods, promoting "premium food" for those who can afford it. That's why our main work should be on popularizing healthy, natural eating.


Steve Bloom said...

Remember that the FDA's preferred practice is to follow up with a ban on labeling so that people can't tell the difference.

D said...

Michael Pollan:

'I think the bigger concern with cloned animals is not personal health. It’s what will it take to keep a herd of genetically identical chickens, horses or pigs alive? Sex and variation is what keeps us from getting wiped out by microbes. If everything is genetically identical, one disease can come along and wipe out the entire group. You will need so many antibiotics and so much sanitation to keep a herd of these creatures going. The bigger concern should be antibiotic resistance.'

bech said...

Good point: the poor still eat better than the rich. So true in Lebanon, I have noticed this a lot. The worst is that the rich pay more because they buy from shops who hike up the prices because they know people buying from them are rich.

The rich in Lebanon should do a lobby and fight for the right for better quality/price ratios.