Wanna Bite of My 'Twin' Burger?

With the news that the Food and Drug Administration is getting closer to approving the sale of meat and milk made from cloned livestock, the Jetson Age officially may have arrived.

Does anyone else think that the state of the food chain is getting weirder by the day?

Imagine, your next-door neighbors, George and Judy Jetson, have just called you on your video Blackberry and they're inviting you to beam yourself over for "twin" burgers, cloned shakes and a side of fries, made from GMO (genetically modified organism) potatoes (but without the transfats, of course).

"Twin," by the way, is one of the terms being used among biotech folks to distinguish cloned animals from those that are genetically engineered. (Whew. I feel better now.)

The FDA's plans, expected to be announced by the end of the year, are drawing strong reactions from consumer groups, concerned about, among other things, food labeling that would be necessary to distinguish the clones from the cows.

The idea that such a food label would be necessary, as part of my consumer shopping experience, makes me want to moo myself into orbit. (What planet do the Jetsons live on, anyway?) Further, am I to assume that there will be clone-free, hormone-free milk varieties, as well? Will they be available in skim, two percent and whole? And what about the cream in my coffee? Is my morning ritual now subject to cloned ramifications? Maybe I'm looking through old-fashioned, milk-bottle lenses, but I'm not ready for clone in my coffee.

Got milk? Share your lactic acid in the comments area below.

Tomorrow: Reaction to two reports released this week on seafood consumption.

By Kim ODonnel |  October 18, 2006; 12:47 PM ET Food Politics , Food in the News
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Comments

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"Does anyone else think that the state of the food chain is getting weirder by the day?"

Yes.

What I don't understand is why the pro-bio-engineering types are so offended by the idea that their food should be labelled. What is so wrong about letting people decide whether they want it or not? (Put me in the 'not' group)

Posted by: bsimon | October 18, 2006 2:32 PM

Some people are troubled if they find
they have eaten food that is not
Kosher, that is not Halal, etcetera -
indeed, in some such religious cases
the person may believe that they will
suffer serious consequences both in
this life and in a future existence.
We do not mandate labeling of food as
Kosher/non-Kosher, etcetera. So why
do any differently with meat from cows
that are descended from clones (much
more likely than meat from clones
themselves!), milk, etcetera?

Posted by: Allen Smith | October 18, 2006 3:01 PM

Yes, I also think things are getting weirder. It has gotten to the point where I spend most of my time in the grocery stores reading the food labels. I, for one, WANT to know what I'm feeding myself and my family. Buying food from local sources and in it's most basic form as much as possible, is how I handle the weirdness.

Posted by: julie | October 18, 2006 3:42 PM

Personally, I'm not interested in eating a clone. It just weirds me out! Do clones have souls?

Posted by: Jason | October 18, 2006 3:58 PM

Do cows have souls? Jason, what kind of a question is, "Do clones have souls?"

Posted by: Chris | October 18, 2006 4:18 PM

Yes!! I'm trying to get my husband and I to switch to a close to 100% organic diet, here is just one more thing for us to try to avoid. After reading the Botany of Desire by Michael Pollon, I just can't help myself (see chapter on Montsano, or whatever the name of that bio-engineering company is). I can't wait until next summer when I will have my first garden!!

Posted by: semi-veggie | October 18, 2006 4:43 PM

Just wondering .... is it safe to assume that people who say 'weird' don't really know what 'clone' means? (Many fruits and vegetables are clones)Are these the same people who say 'chemicals' in food are not safe? (Everything made up of atoms and molecules are chemicals including the food.) Just wondering .... will a good science education (no creationism please) free us from these uninformed fears? Since the latter is obviously not possible in the US of A, perhaps appropriate labeling is the only way to go!

Posted by: columbia | October 18, 2006 5:28 PM

Ethical questions aside, I dont think we know enough about cloned animals to eat them

To answer the question about chemicals in fruits and vegetables, NO, they're probably not safe either.

Posted by: Danny | October 18, 2006 6:05 PM

What really bothers me about clones is genetic homogeneity. We already have to give our cows antibiotics as a matter of course. This is because their immune systems are weakened by the stress of eating corn and ground up animals rather than, say, grass. Medicating animals carries a grave risk of breeding resistant germs that can cross over to humans.

But how much worse will the microbe vulnerability issue get when our animals are literally genetically identical to each other? Lord.

Posted by: Malex | October 18, 2006 6:26 PM

I agree with Malex's comment on the effect on genetic diversity posed by the use of clones; but other than that, what's the problem? Kim, why do you object? You've told us that you do, but not why.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 20, 2006 12:56 PM

We know that "Mad Cow Disease" came about because of feeding infected animal brain/spinal tissue to other animals that should have been on a herbevore diet. We do not know what consequence a missed genetic trait in cloned animal tissue might do to our population. Not lableing would make it impossible to trace any possible "opps" of a catastrophic nature until it is too late. The meat industry is NOT going to be in the forefront of protecting the public, but in covering up their mistakes and liabilities.

Posted by: Paul Corsa | October 22, 2006 5:43 PM

"Medicating animals carries a grave risk of breeding resistant germs that can cross over to humans"

The antibiotics used in agriculture are antiquated, meaning they are no longer used in treating humans. The resistance that develops is to that antibiotic and since they are no longer in use, it is not likely to cause resistance to actively used antibiotics.

I would suspect that the mis- and overuse of antibiotics in the human population is the more likely the cause of increased resistance.

Posted by: Biologist | October 25, 2006 11:15 AM

"...We do not know what consequence a missed genetic trait in cloned animal tissue might do to our population."

Please explain what you mean by a "missed genetic trait" and why you think this is more likely to occur via cloning then through traditional breeding practices?

Posted by: Biologist | October 25, 2006 11:21 AM

"We already have to give our cows antibiotics as a matter of course. This is because their immune systems are weakened by the stress of eating corn and ground up animals rather than, say, grass."

Antibiotics are not given because the immune system is weakened, they are given because it was shown that animals increase their mass more rapidly as opposed to just feeding them a typical animal feedstock, be it grass or grain.

Posted by: Biologist | October 25, 2006 11:30 AM

One steak good, two steak better!!! clone the A1 sauce too! or would it become A2 sauce?

Posted by: steak boy | October 26, 2006 1:01 PM

Ok - so no, not everyone agrees that GMO fruit and veg is safe - the EU jury is still out.
On the subject of not labelling Kosher as the same as not labelling GMO. As wrong as this might be, people have lived in a world of bad kosher labelling. It's getting better, but it's a fact of life. We've also lived in a world with the expectation of having our meat come from a naturally born source, If this changes, we need full disclosure because of centuries old expectations.

Posted by: terrier | October 31, 2006 2:30 PM

"We've also lived in a world with the expectation of having our meat come from a naturally born source"

Cloned animals will still be born naturally. The cloned embryos will be implanted into host females.

Posted by: Biologist | November 1, 2006 11:49 AM

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