"It is beyond our imagination to even find a theory that would cause the food to be unsafe." With that ringing endorsement, Stephen Sundlof, the chief food-safety expert at America's Food and Drug Administration (FDA), recently declared food derived from the offspring of cloned cows, pigs and goats to be safe for human consumption. The decision came just days after the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) publicly reached the same conclusion.
At first blush this seems likely to lead to a repetition of the controversies that surrounded the arrival of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in agriculture more than a decade ago. Back then an over-zealous industry (led by Monsanto, an American GMO pioneer) touted the benefits of a novel food technology. Activist groups and parts of the media said GMOs were dangerous and unethical. Scientific bodies on both sides of the Atlantic agreed that GMOs could be used safely, but politics halted their advance in Europe.
Could the same saga unfold with cloning? Once again the biotechnology firms sound a bit brash, much as Monsanto did. James Greenwood, head of BIO, the lobbying arm of the American biotechnology sector, bragged this week to reporters that, thanks to his industry's efforts, animals have now been successfully cloned on six continents. David Faber, the head of Trans Ova, an American firm leading the charge, claims this technology will make possible "elite breeding" that will lead to faster-growing, disease-resistant and genetically superior animals.
To activists opposed to cloned food, meanwhile, the FDA and EFSA decisions mean only one thing: Frankenfoods are on their way.
Source: The Economist, http://www.economist.com
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