Recently, the FDA indicated that it would be alright with cloned food, even if it were not so labeled. This was a big mistake.
Though many experts have said that it is unlikely that any cloned food would actually end up on shelves, but that cloned animals would be utilized in other capacities. So what is the big deal? The big deal is that people really care about knowing what they are eating.
I have maintained that it is ok as long as it is labeled so that people can make informed choices, just like they opt for "organic" because it is labeled that way. Let the market decide. If the FDA strives for honest labeling regarding organic, why not honest labeling about the source of a food?
This week, a state senator named Carol Migden in California introduced legislation that would require the labeling of food that has been cloned called SB 63. To do otherwise would not just be a civil fine, but a crime:
This bill would require a manufacturer or producer of food for human consumption that contains any product from a cloned animal or its progeny to label the food to indicate that the food includes a product of a cloned animal or its progeny, as specified. By creating a new crime, this bill would impose a state-mandated local program.
Anyone who thinks this bill won’t pass has never lived in California (I did for 10 years). And if it isn’t a bill, you can rely on it to become a state proposition passed by the populace, and creating an enormous money hole for those on both sides of the issue.
Need anyone look back very far to remember the highly negative public reaction there was to genetically manipulated or irradiated foods? Or the fact that Europe is highly sensitive to such issues? Proposition 69 which required labeling wherever there was the potential for a carcinogenic substance was passed in California. That was labeling in the extreme.
The Administration, in terms of many issues, has been active only on the outskirts, and has minimalized its role in setting policy. This has caused states to take pre-emptive measures aimed at filling the vacuum left by federal inaction – minimum wage, health care coverage and global warming to name a few. The FDA should think twice before following that lead, particularly on such a sensitive issue (people really care about what they eat) otherwise, state action my push the relevance of the agency off to the sideline.