Tuesday, February 8, 2011


It is a Catch 22 situation for policy makers world over whether foods derived from cloned animals such as milk and meat should be cleared from safety angle and if so what should be the control measures to be put in place to prevent run-away flooding of market with such foods without knowing the long term repercussions to the Society at large. The issue gained some importance after recommendations, albeit limited, made by experts in the UK to allow foods from cloned animals for human consumption. Their view is based on some limited analyses of normal and products from cloned animals and finding no difference in terms of chemical, physical and nutritional angles. But safety in the short term may not qualify for clearance and a much wider study needs to be carried out to come to a meaningful conclusion. What is intriguing is the language used by the expert committee indicating that products derived from cloned animals are "unlikely to present any food safety risk", making the whole issue ambiguous!

Is it the greed for higher profitability for the farming community that drives the demand for clearing cloning technology in Europe and other western countries, though there appears to be many unanswered questions about the safety and ethical aspects of commercializing this infant technology? Probably many farmers expect that cloning would create new superlative animals which can yield very high quantities of meat and milk at relatively lower costs. It is not realized that the technology can inflict misery and cruelty to the animals and is questionable from ethical point of view. What is known to day indicates that the technique causes high levels of miscarriage, organ failure and gigantism among new-born clones and creates concern that such a system can push the farming operations into mega factory mode where animals are merely cogs in the machine.

Of course major concern is restricted to the fate of the cloned calves up to the first 6 months where as older ones do not present any major health problems. Many studies have brought out the fact that there are abnormalities in foetal development and in the new-born from the cloned mothers. It is possible that breeders may overcome these problems eventually as the cloning technology is barely 10 year old. If at all the cloning technology is to be cleared answers must be found for the ethical problems cited by the antagonists of this modern technique of breeding. The usefulness of the above technology in animal breeding must outweigh its impact on animal well-being and only a multi dimensional assessment can provide adequate basis to decide on the issue.

The labeling controversy regarding marketing of products from cloned animals refuses to die down and some surreptitious attempts recently in the UK to sell meat from cloned animals without letting the consumers know about it must be condemned in no uncertain terms. Consumers must have the ultimate right to accept or reject a food based on their perception and therefore products derived from clones must be distinguished, if and when they are approved, declaring the same on the label. It is unethical and devious to push them to the unassuming consumers and then make it a fait accompli. Probably when consumers accept them unreservedly, the label provision can be done away with.

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