Saturday, January 19, 2008

Some Notable Items and a Word on Cloned Animals

In the news:
The US government has given the green light to the production and marketing of foods derived from cloned animals.

Then there's this:
US scientists say they have produced embryos that are clones of two men, in an attempt to produce patient-specific stem cells.

Why is it that these two articles make me think long pig is not too far away? Will dietitians soon have to counsel their clients on its nutritional benefits and drawbacks?

To be serious though, the end of the FDA's six-year investigation into the possible effects of clone-derived food showed nothing harmful. Given FDA's history of leniency toward food producers and their close ties with the food industry, this isn't a shocking surprise.

For anyone who is unfamiliar with evolutionary biology, genetic diversity decreases the virulence of diseases through the development of more effective biological defenses. One of the ways to increase genetic diversity is DNA recombination via sexual reproduction. Without this diversity, we would see more animals getting sick (think bird flu) more frequently and faster than we can cope. There is also the problem of antibiotics in that food producers who use cloned animal stock will have to rely on more antibiotics to prevent disease outbreaks from happening. The US's epidemic and bioterrorism containment programs rarely work effectively in practice runs - what makes us think we can deal with animal epidemics any better?

Right now, the final decision on whether or not cloned animals products should be labeled as such is still pending.

I can't wait to hear how food companies are going to present and justify the use and sale of cloned animals in the coming months.

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