New York Times anti-cloning editorial
January 6, 2007
Safe as Milk?
The Food and Drug Administration's assessment that food from cloned
animals is safe to eat is a victory for biotech companies and a loss
for everyone else. Like many decisions on the cutting edge of
agricultural technology, it was hurried along in a way that is more
sensitive to political and economic pressure than to the long-term
welfare of animals, humans and the world they inhabit. Asking whether
cloned meat and milk are safe is not even the right question. The
right question is, why clone at all?
Approving food from cloned animals will create another food-labeling
nightmare and the same aggressive litigation that usually blocks any
attempt to tell consumers where their food comes from.
But cloning has much worse consequences. It marks a revolutionary
shift - from the relative randomness of sexual reproduction to the
apparent uniformity of asexual reproduction. Because cloning creates
genetically identical animals, it will shrink the gene pool on which
agriculture rests, and any drastic shrinkage in genetic diversity
creates enormous health risks for a species.
Cloning isn't just a matter for the F.D.A. to decide. It is up to us
as a society to decide as well. We should be asking much broader
questions than the F.D.A. is able to. Who will cloning benefit? What
will it do to the health of the animals themselves?
But the most important question of all may be this one: Are we
willing to judge the suitability of new technologies in ways that
fully address their ethical and biological complexities? Or are we
doomed to give in to politics and the bottom line?