A headline article in the Seattle Times today suggested that cloned food is near FDA-approval. The food is apparently testing safe, and astonishingly similar to non-cloned food. Which isn’t exactly surprising if you understand the science behind cloning. It probably won’t hurt us in any way to eat cloned food, and it might have some advantages (breed a steer for high-quality low-fat beef, clone it, and get a reliable source of similar protein, identify a good reliable egg-layer and clone it…)
But it feels a little creepy to me, I guess since I’ve read Brave New World and similar science fiction books and stories that are meant to caution about cloning.
Most importantly, besides the tension between my emotional and rational reactions to this news, a whole conversation has been missed. We really need social dialogue on this kind of fundamental change in our food supply. Big business is for it, which is fine. From thier perspective, it probably makes good business sense. The FDA is close to approving it, since apparently it’s safe. That’s their job – keep the food supply safe. But there are other considerations. Do we want to reduce the genetic diversity in our food supply? Will that slow evolution? Does this further disadvantage the small farmer, or the third-world farmer? Should there be some kind of labeling?
As the speed of change continues to increase and as an avalanche of things that seemed to be in the future turn out to be in the present, it is important for all of us to force the conversations to happen.
For more on cloning.