Judging from some of the interesting comments I get on this blog, most people would be happy if I stuck to cooking and stopped talking about food issues, but I read the news way too much and then I just can’t help myself!
Today it was announced that the FDA has approved cloned animals to enter our food supply. Aside from the visceral reaction I get whenever I read about some new frankensteinian change to our food supply, I really do have valid concerns this time. A healthy food chain is a diverse food chain. A population of animals or plants can survive a catastrophic disease or a change in environment much easier if there is genetic diversity. If we begin to clone the “best” animals to be the parents of our food animals, we may eventually have millions of cows who have a desirable trait such as highly marbled meat but who lack the genes to fend off certain diseases. So really, my concern is food security. We have already lost many heritage breeds of animals and heirloom plants, old varieties that we can breed back to if we need certain traits. The animals and plants we raise for food are already very identical to each other. Adding cloning into the mix will make them even more similar.
One extreme event in our history we can refer back to in order to understand my concern over cloning is the Irish potato famine. One variety of potato out of the possible thousands of varieties found in Peru was brought back to and grown in Ireland. This variety of potato was successful both as a crop and as a desirable new food. The potato became a staple food that people depended on as a major source of their calories. Potato blight wiped out the monoculture crop of potatoes that Ireland depended on. Over a million people perished.
Now it would be silly to say we would all starve to death if all of the cows or sheep or pigs died, but we are a very meat centric society here in the U.S. and our economy would take quite a hit if our meat industry were somehow decimated. McDonalds doesn’t claim to have served a hundred billion burgers for nothing!
Anyway…just a little food for thought.