The Food and Drug Administration recently declared that meat and milk from cloned cows, pigs and goats and their offspring are "as safe to eat as food from conventionally bred animals." That's like saying that brand A cigarettes are as safe to smoke as brand B. The question isn't whether meat and milk from cloned animals pose additional health risks - it's why would anyone want to consume meat and milk at all?
Face it: Meat - cloned or not - is about as "safe" as a troubled celebrity behind the wheel of a car. It's high in cholesterol, saturated fat and concentrated protein - all of which contribute to heart disease. Research shows that meat-eaters are 50 percent more likely to develop heart disease than vegetarians are. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that 26 percent of meat-eaters studied suffered from high blood pressure - the No. 1 risk factor for strokes - compared to only 2 percent of vegetarians. The American Dietetic Association acknowledges that people who eat animal products are more likely to be overweight than people who do not.
In a 2007 joint report, the American Institute for Cancer Research and the World Cancer Research Fund advised people to lose weight and reduce their consumption of red and processed meats to help prevent certain cancers, including colorectal and breast cancers. Scientists with the University of Minnesota, the Harvard School of Public Health and other institutions have cautioned that eating red and processed meats can also cause diabetes. Other meats aren't any better: According to a 2006 Harvard study, people who frequently eat grilled skinless chicken have a 52 percent higher chance of developing bladder cancer than people who don't.
Add to this the risk of illness from consuming meat and milk tainted with dangerous bacteria. Just last week, the Rochester Meat Co. in Minnesota recalled 188,000 pounds of ground beef potentially contaminated with E. coli. There've been at least eight other E. coli-related meat recalls since October. In September, the Topps Meat Co. in New Jersey recalled more than 21 million pounds of beef after 100 people became sick. Since June, three elderly men have died and one woman has miscarried after drinking listeria-contaminated milk from a Boston-area dairy plant.
Yet instead of at least encouraging people to be wary when eating animal products, the FDA is allowing meat and milk from the offspring of cloned animals to enter the food supply - and consumers are supposed to swallow this? Only in America. The European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies says that it doesn't see convincing arguments to justify the production of food from clones and their offspring.
Nothing can justify this. Not only are meat and milk unhealthy, the process of cloning animals is also unethical. Cloned animals pose a risk to their surrogate mothers because they tend to be too large for their mothers to deliver. Many clones have birth defects, and cloned calves have died of respiratory, digestive, circulatory, nervous, muscular and skeletal abnormalities. But, according to the FDA, if the animals survive more than a few months, they appear normal in most ways. How comforting: If they live long enough, they can be slaughtered in the same terrifying ways that other animals are.
The FDA is moving in the wrong direction. More and more consumers are resolving to make healthy, humane food choices. They're choosing truly safe "meats" - mock meats - and other vegetarian options. A 2005 Mintel survey indicated that U.S. sales of vegetarian food increased by 64 percent from 2000 to 2005 and predicted that the vegetarian food market will continue to grow in the next few years. This represents progress - engineering animals and marketing unhealthy food does not.