Friday, December 29, 2006

Cloning your next meal

Can't you just imagine, your next Cafe Mocha made with milk cloned from the best of dairy cows? Or, your next juicy steak originating from that big ol' steer produced by science? No, I am not talking about the test tube meat post, I am referring to the latest FDA news regarding cloning of cows to produce oh so delicious steak and dairy products. Apparently this testing period has been going on for about 6 years, and the conclusion, after much delay, is that "milk and meat from some cloned farm animals are safe to eat." This has not been formally approved by the FDA, and the technology is still super expensive so its not likely that you will witness science project meats staring back at you in the aisles I avoid at all costs anyway. Joseph Mendelson, legal director for Food Safety (an advocacy group) says that the decision is still half baked because consumer surveys show that most people are opposed to cloning animals in general, let alone for food. FDA officials claim that the food from cloned animals is indistinguishable from the other food, therefore no labeling is required. The FDA collected a substantial amount of data and compiled it into a 700 page "draft risk assessment" that concludes that milk and meat from cloned cows, pigs and goats (and their offspring) were "as safe to eat as the food we eat every day." Even though cloning has been legal since 2001, there has been a voluntary moratorium on selling milk or meat from cloned animals in order to study the issue. Apparently, experts say, some of those products may have leaked into the food supply. That is comforting.
No one yet has succeeded in cloning chickens or poultry. Farmers who have been producing milk or meat from cloned livestock have been either consuming it themselves or throwing it out because of the struggle to get this cloned product passed through the FDA formally. The FDA seems to be interested only in the cloning companies, not so much the agriculture industry, according to Joseph Mendelson.
A survey conducted last summer by the International Dairy Foods Association found that 14% of women would turn away any dairy product labeled as originating from a cloned animal. Another poll by the Pew Initiative for Food and Biotechnology yielded results saying that 64% of consumers were uncomfortable with the whole cloned food idea. Other countries are not attempting this strategy, just the USA. Of course, this could lead to other countries blocking US meat from crossing their borders. Carol Tucker Foreman, director for food policy at the Consumer Federation of America says consumer groups would ask food companies, retailers and restaurant chains to shun products from cloned livestock. Soon we will see milk with a million labels of what is NOT inside. NO hormones, NO cloned animals involved in the making of this milk....etc.
Experts stand by their position that cloning is too expensive to be used to make animals in order to grind them up into burgers or sausages. Farmers and breeders are cloning prized livestock generally so they can breed them in a traditional fashion. This means that most food from cloning will come from the sexually produced offspring of the cloned animals.
Michael Pollan weighs in on this issue and reminds me of an article about the modern pig farms in New Yorker magazine "awhile back. He explains that cloning animals for meat and milk would be one step further down the path that's gotten us into big trouble in agriculture- monoculture. Cloning brings more uniformity to the genetics of commercial beef and dairy herds, and wherever you have a monoculture, its exquisitely vulnerable to all kinds of shocks, in this case disease. To keep a paddock full of genetically identical animals healthy would take more than drugs. This seems like a big thing for the pharmaceutical industry more than anyone. Just because we can do it, doesn't mean we should do it."
The modern pig farm article in the New Yorker discussed how this specific farm thought that breeding pigs and isolating genes to make the pigs LEANER was the best way to go. No they create nothing but these pigs that have little fat content and a super high metabolism. They are kept far away from where the farmers live to lessen the chance of contamination. Farmers and farmhands are required to wear a hazmat suit in order to go in and work with the pigs. If anyone drives a tractor too close to the pig house, the pigs freak out over the noise and even die because of the panic they experience. They have screwed with the pigs genetic makeup so much that they are so far from being a normal pig on a farm with outside pasture to munch on and mud to roll in that they are literally dying from stress as a loud noise strikes or a contaminated person enters their quarters. Consumers seem to shun the skinny pigs. They want fatty bacon, not lean bacon. So now that this specific farmer has bred his pigs to be lean, he no longer has the fat hogs to breed and make the fatty bacon again. Basically, you screw with the pig, you get the um, hooves?? I wish they had horns.
I think Americans REALLY need to stop a minute and take a second to figure out what they can live without. Everyone is so eager to consume MORE food, MORE fur, MORE junk. I find it sad that we cannot do things a proper, healthier way to really enjoy life like the Italians SLOW FOOD MOVEMENT.
"Slow Food U.S.A. is a non-profit educational organization dedicated to supporting and celebrating the food traditions of North America. From the spice of Cajun cooking to the purity of the organic movement; from animal breeds and heirloom varieties of fruits and vegetables to handcrafted wine and beer, farmhouse cheeses and other artisanal products; these foods are a part of our cultural identity. They reflect generations of commitment to the land and devotion to the processes that yield the greatest achievements in taste. These foods, and the communities that produce and depend on them, are constantly at risk of succumbing to the effects of the fast life, which manifests itself through the industrialization and standardization of our food supply and degradation of our farmland. By reviving the pleasures of the table, and using our tastebuds as our guides, Slow Food U.S.A. believes that our food heritage can be saved."
Do you REALLY need that super whopper special sauce crap between two buns with a huge order of fries and a super giant size chemical laden soda on ice? Do you need to eat that GIANT bag of cheetos between breakfast and lunch? What about that bloody steak on sale at Safeway for .99 a pound? yuck.
Go to your farmers market, see what is in season, enjoy what is supposed to be enjoyed this time of year. As I type I am eating a delicious pear from Oregon, and damn its just as good as an ice cream or a fatty candy bar. Take pride in what you eat, don't shame yourself dammit!

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