Irenic Thoughts

Irenic. The word means peaceful. This web log (or blog) exists to create an ongoing, and hopefully peaceful, series of comments on the life of King of Peace Episcopal Church. This is not a closed community. You are highly encouraged to comment on any post or to send your own posts.


Eating meat of the same cow over and over

The Wall Street Journal reports that cloned animals may be cleared to move into the food production chain. In the article Cloned Livestock Poised To Receive FDA Clearance reports that
After more than six years of wrestling with the question of whether meat and milk from them [cloned animals] are safe to eat, the Food and Drug Administration is expected to declare as early as next week that they are.
I think that asking whether the cloned meat is safe to eat may be asking the wrong question. My concerns are more for the breeding practices and its unintended consequences. I stand by what I wrote in a religion column on genetically engineered plant crops a few years ago:
The central problem is that humans are trying to adapt the natural world to fit the market-driven economy rather than having the farming methods fit the world around it. Some of the very problems now being countered with transgenic plants were not a problem in smaller-scale farming that relied on planting various crops alongside each other to naturally discourage pests. You see this in household gardens where tomatoes and marigolds are planted together as a natural form of pest control not seen as practical for large-scale farming.

While a life-saving crop of rice is tempting, we should not gamble our food supply on unproven methods. We do not yet know the long-term implications of genetically modifying the plants we eat. We humans may be making an end-run around biological barriers intended to protect us without first considering the consequences.

A little more humility is called for in both the science and the regulation. Corporations seeking to enlarge their profit margins will not introduce this humility. We need regulations to slow the move from greenhouse to broad-scale use with better science. After all, once the transgenic varieties are introduced, we have already found that they create their own hybrids with native species. We may find a new plant safe in the lab only to find that they have disastrous results when they move from greenhouse to field. We also need labeling which will allow you the consumer to know if the food you buy was genetically modified.

a cloned calfWhere is God in all this? God created a world with a dizzying array of plant and animal species held in a delicate balance. We know that greater diversity of plant and animal life allows greater chance of survival for the all species if one variety falls prey. This diversity of life is the way the world was created. Part of the role of stewardship of the earth found in both the Jewish and Christian faiths is that we are to protect the diversity of life, which in turn protects our food supply.
The full text of that column is online here: Where Is God in the Genetic Food Fight? I see this as a moral issue in which we believers have an obligation to try to make our feelings known. What do you think? Is cloning cows and other animals for market a problem?



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