Scanning for cloned meat

Now you can know for sure.

There’s a new, fool-proof way of determining whether the steak you’re eating came from a cloned animal using DNA barcoding technology.

This statement was made by an Irish scientist at the American Association for the Advancement of Science conference in Boston this week. According to Professor Patrick Cunningham, DNA tracking which is already used in some countries to certify meat as organic or hormone free, could easily be used to identify meat that came from cloned animals.

Products from cloned animals were recently approved as safe for human consumption by the United States and the European Union. There were howls of protest from consumers groups about whether or not enough testing had been done to rule out long term, negative side effects of eating cloned animal meat.

Farmers and industry were quick to point out that the cost of cloned livestock is so high that it is unlikely that they were to show up en masse on supermarket shelves any time soon. Especially not in North America, where food is relatively cheap and we consumers are spoiled by the abundance and low cost of meat proteins available for purchase. And it should be worth noting that the Canadian government has not yet approved these products for human consumption in this country.

But should we get to this point, Cunningham argues that this tool gives retailers a chance to provide assurances to consumers concerned about what they are eating and where it might have come from. There is already a plethora of labels on food products these days, though, claiming every-thing from health benefits to “natural” production.

And there seems to be growing skepticism amongst consumers regarding label and packaging claims, especially when some can’t really back up what they’re saying, so I wonder what kind of effect a “clone-free” label will have on grocery shoppers. Will it serve to reassure them? Or will it turn them off meat altogether?

I guess only time will tell.

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