V i e w p o i n t
TAKE feel like I’m in a Quentin Tarantino movie gone wrong— the already dark subjects have gotten even darker. The subject of animal cloning just will not go away, no matter how many times I click my heels and recite the magic phrase. Recall back in December 2006 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was accepting public comments on the subject of the approved introduction of cloned animals into our food supply. Then a survey from the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology generally expressed what I believe most of the world was thinking—‘no,’ we do not want food from clones. The majority of respondents were generally uncomfortable with the idea of eating food products from cloned meat. If cloned meat is in the conventional food supply, how long before some of it seeps into organic foodstuffs? We’ve already seen what happens to organic farmers when unwanted genetically modified seed crosses over and contaminates organic crops. (Remember Percy Schmeiser?) To thwart the possibility of, or at least reduce the chances of, milk and meat from cloned animals entering the organic food supply, Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Herb Kohl (D-WI) introduced a bill in February that would close a possible loophole in the US Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program. The current regulations prohibit cloned animals from being certified organic, but what about their offspring? The answer to that is unclear, according to the agency’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), which runs the organic program. I’m not sure what’s still unclear for AMS, but I’ll help them with a little clarification, courtesy of the Pew Initiative
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and Michigan State University. A new report examines moral and ethical issues related to genetically modified foods. A number of key talking points came out of that discussion, but what really hit home for me was the conclusion that, “no silver bullet exists in terms of a single institution accommodating all of the relevant ethics questions; ethics discussions should take place in numerous institutions by a wide variety of people and should engender public trust and confidence.” I think the FDA has acted too quickly in giving its preliminary stamp of approval, and therefore not engendering public trust and confidence given a small group of proponents who claim that cloning will improve the consistency and quality of the existing foods. No, I think we have organics to credit for quality and consistency. Don’t you? Former National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) chairman Jim Riddle thinks so and is taking our cause to Capitol Hill along with the senators. Riddle was scheduled to appear before the NOSB, (a citizens advisory board which makes recommendations to USDA on organic standards) and advise against the use of meat and milk from the progeny of cloned animals. He refers to his new report on the subject of organics and cloning as “All Steak and No Sizzle.” Go to www.organic-center.org/science.latest.php to download a copy of Riddle’s report. If you agree with either or both of us, e-mail Mark Bradley, associate deputy administrator at the NOP and tell him so: NOPcompliance@usda.gov or call (202) 720-3252.
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www.oprmagazine.com ■ April/May 2007