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Frankenmeat: Haven’t I Eaten You Before?

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Drop that bacon! Back away from the milk! Spit out that steak!

If you’ve had your eyes open this week, you’ve read that the FDA has declared the meat and milk from cloned livestock to be perfectly safe—or at least identically safe as the livestock from which it was cloned. For many media outlets—especially food-related blogs and the 10 o’clock news—this is a cause for alarm and a great excuse for running photos of corresponding cows below sensational headlines. (Attention blogosphere and late-night news anchors: The use of “Clone Wars” and “Attack of the Clones”—though cleverly referencing bad attempts at science fiction—has officially been exhausted.)

But if the idea of consuming cloned meat or dairy frightens you, grab a diaper: You probably already are. Or have. Or will for dinner tonight.

The FDA has been saying—or heavily hinting—for years that cloned livestock is safe for consumption. Farmers have been buying cloned livestock for years, using them mostly for breeding purposes (because a cloned cow can cost as much as a nice Audi) but occasionally (or more than occasionally—who knows?) selling them and their milk without declaring their singular pedigrees. (Read this excellent story from Wired, in which several farmers admit to sending cloned livestock into the food supply.) And what about the offspring of cloned livestock? Should we consider them “cloned” as well? And what about fruit? Much of the apples and potatoes and other produce you eat are cloned. And grapes! We might as well call wine “fermented clone juice.”

That said, there are solid arguments and compelling “what ifs?” that make a case against cloning livestock. But I’d rather have beef from a properly raised clone than from some hormone-pumped, factory-raised animal. For now, I’ll agree with Mary Shelley’s Captain Walton: “The labours of men of genius, however erroneously directed, scarcely ever fail in ultimately turning to the solid advantage of mankind.”

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