Cloned Animals, Food, Ethics

I guess it was inevitable. Given Europe’s history of mistrusting genetically-modified foods, you had to know that the idea of cloned foods was going to have a rough time there.

Here’s the story, by James Kanter, writing for the NY Times: European Parliament Seeks Ban on Foods From Cloned Animals.

The European Parliament appealed on Wednesday for a ban on the sale of foods from cloned animals and their offspring, the latest sign of deepening concern in the European Union about the safety and ethics of new food technologies.

Members were voting on legislation that would have regulated the sale of foods based on new production processes, including cloning. That legislation would have required companies to ask permission to market food derived from cloned animals.

Apparently members of Parliament voiced 3 kinds of concerns related to cloning. One was about animal welfare. Fair enough — except almost any diminution of welfare experienced by animals due to the cloning process are surely going to be entirely minimal compared to the brutality of large-scale animal agriculture in general. So that reason is either disingenuous, hypocritical, or delusional.

The second reason cited was biodiversity, which is also a pretty thin reason. Certainly cloning in animal agriculture isn’t going to affect biodiversity in the usual sense — that is, the biodiversity of more-or-less natural ecosystems. On the other hand, I suppose individual farmers may be reducing the genetic diversity of their herds, putting their herds at immunological risk by raising entire herds of cloned animals (i.e., there wouldn’t be any significant diversity of immunological response within the herd). But that’s more or less the farmer’s problem, not (as far as I can see) a problem for public policy.

The third problem cited is “ethical concerns” (hived off as if the first two worries were not to be thought of as ethical concerns themselves). At any rate, without elaboration, it’s a pretty lame reason. It’s about as convincing as the time George W Bush explained his opposition to stem cell research on the grounds that such research crossed some (unarticulated) “moral line.” Given that there’s no reason to think food from cloned animals will be in any way dangerous to the consuming public, Parliamentarians need to do better than that.

About Chris MacDonald

I'm a philosopher who teaches at Ryerson University's Ted Rogers School of Management in Toronto, Canada. Most of my scholarly research is on business ethics and healthcare ethics.
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2 Responses to Cloned Animals, Food, Ethics

  1. Pingback: Europeans & Cloned Food Animals | Biotech Ethics

  2. Pingback: Cloning and “Proportionate” Regulatory Response to Risk | The Food Ethics Blog

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