The FDA approved the cloning of cattle, swine, and goats for human consumption on Tuesday.
"Extensive evaluation of the available data has not identified any subtle hazards that might indicate food-consumption risks in healthy clones of cattle, swine, or goats," the 968-page "final risk assessment" concluded.
"Thus, edible products from healthy clones that meet existing requirements for meat and milk in commerce pose no increased food consumption risk(s) relative to comparable products from sexually-derived animals."
But the FDA said it needs more information to determine the safety of meat and milk from cloned sheep. The FDA also concluded that food from newborn cattle clones "may pose some very limited human food consumption risk."
Europe's food safety agency has endorsed meat and milk products from cloned animals, however the decision on whether or not to allow the sale of these products to consumers is still pending.
Why would we need to clone animals for meat products? In essence, it is a high-tech method of selective breeding. By cloning only the most prized milk and beef producers, breeders can ensure higher-quality milk and meat products.
It isn't likely that you'll see cloned meat at the supermarket any time soon. It's too costly to slaughter these animals, instead they will be used for breeding stock. According to the experts, it will likely be three to five years before most consumers see milk and meat products from their offspring.
Of course, the issue of how these foods will be labeled is still up in the air. Will carnivorous consumers even be able to determine if the meat they are buying is indeed cloned?
I'm a vegan, so this issue won't impact my shopping experiences. But I can't help but wonder if anyone else is as nervous about this as I am. As wonderful as scientific advances can be, are we ready for this? Just look at how often the FDA approves a drug for use, only to have it recalled a few years later because of significant unanticipated consequences. Do we know enough? Just because we can do something, doesn't mean we should.
So today, I have another reason to be very happy that I'm vegan. And I wonder, if cloned meat actually hits the shelves, will that spur other people to become vegan as well?