On the news tonight I understand the US FDA is prepared to allow the sale of cloned cattle and other livestock for the production of various food commodities.
As a biologist, I will say that in principle there is nothing necessarily dangerous about the consumption of cloned animals – according to the data I have read to date. I acknowledge there are problems with genetic modification of animals and plants, but this is a separate, though related, issue. Having said that, I would still like to allow for greater long term experiments to be sure.
What I am opposed to however is the need for this technology right now. Despite the apparent food shortages formed in our minds by pictures of starving Africans, the world actually produces a surplus of food products. Both the US and the EU routinely produce vast surpluses, poetically known as milk lakes and mountains of bread and butter. This surplus food largely goes to waste, some even being burnt for electrical production, all this despite clear evidence of epidemic malnutrition and genuine starvation afflicting millions of our species. And yet, even with this colossal waste of food products, we see an insatiable march to convert wild areas into ‘productive’ agricultural land, as seen in the Amazon and the African Sahel. We also see a march towards GM food dominance over less productive, but more genetically diverse agricultural products. All this will lead to even greater food surpluses, as well as an increasingly weakened biosphere, a depleted genetic biodiversity and, as the capitalistic mode of agricultural production expands, the greater pauperization of heretofore self-sufficient peasants, leading to increased flight to urban areas and the expansion of slum cities.
Earth produces more than enough food for our species. The problem is not one of production but one of distribution. The problem of food distribution is not a simple one of physical logistics of transporting foodstuffs, but rather on of market forces. The vast surpluses of food that go to waste, if not being sufficient to counter world hunger and malnutrition, would certainly contribute in a large and real way to correcting this aberration. There is no good reason other than the greed of capital accumulation to explain why a fellow human should suffer the indignity of malnutrition or starvation. While I subscribe to the philosophy that if you do not work, then you do not eat, this rule only applies when work is available. For the most part, most of those suffering from hunger or malnutrition go hungry not from want of work but from want of just wages.
I will agree that the world cannot sustain a ‘Western’ diet, but I will also agree that a Western diet is not necessary either for providing a nutritious diet or a high quality of life. A more rational consumption of food is necessary to achieve a sustainable production of food for our species and ensuring the survival of ‘wild’ areas.
The cloning of agricultural products is not about providing food for the people. As stated we already produce surpluses, and a change in distribution based on social profit as opposed to private profit would achieve the noble aim of ensuring adequate nutrition for all of our people. Cloned food is about greed, pure private profit.