Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Send In The Clones

The USDA has announced their findings from a study on meat from cloned animals. The results: meat and milk from clones of adult cattle, pigs and goats, and their offspring, are as safe to eat as food from conventionally bred animals. The assessment was peer-reviewed by a group of independent scientific experts in cloning and animal health.

The outcry has already begun from religious groups, organics growers, fear-mongers and worry-warts. After searching Google News for stories about the decision, and reaction to it, most of the arguments against the decision seem to go like this: "Nobody wants to eat meat from a cloned animal. Cloning is unethical. How do we know it's safe? Eleven years of study isn't enough. Why do we need cloning. We grow all the animals we'll ever need."

Critics play up the idea that clones are some kind of scientific Frankenstein animal. Actually, if you look around, you might see a clone today. Don't believe me?

The basic definition of a clone is "one that appears to be a copy of an original form." As far as genetics, a clone is "the aggregate of genetically identical cells or organisms asexually produced by a single progenitor cell or organism; an individual grown from a single somatic cell or cell nucleus and genetically identical to it." Have you ever met identical twins? Also known as "nature's clones", identical twins are exact genetic matches. They're like clones of each other. We don't consider them freakish or ungodly. We don't shun them.

The "eating cloned meat" argument is misleading, because the cloned animals would almost exclusively be used for breeding. Their offspring would not be clones. Animals with the strongest, most beneficial traits could be replicated and used to strengthen herds. If we can locate animals with resistance to diseases, like a BSE ("Mad Cow") resistant cow, they could help breed new herds of cows all resistant to the disease.

The science behind this research is no less relevant or untrustworthy than the science that led to vaccines for diseases, treatments for cancers, brain surgery, in-vitro fertilization, DNA and genome mapping, and so much more. These are not mad scientists, trying to create some genetic abomination. They're working for the greater good, just as most scientists always have. Arguments based of fear, mis-information, even lies, are much more dangerous and unethical than the science of cloning.