Cloning Livestock. Cloned Cows.Genetically modified crops have been a hot button issue among consumers for some time now. It has become a standard procedure among large agricultural firms to genetically alter and engineer crops to maximize profits. Crops can be manipulated to be more disease resistant, to hold up better during long shipping distances, or for any number of other reasons. One example is Monsanto’s introduction of Roundup Ready soybeans, which can resist heavy doses of the pesticide Roundup, which is used to kill off weeds. This particular strain of genetically engineered soybeans now accounts for the vast majority of soybeans produced in the United States. Although there have been certain advantages to genetic engineering in crops, there are certain ethical issues as well.
The next step in genetically modified food may be cloning livestock. The cloning of livestock could theoretically enable farmers to grow large quantities of the most productive, disease resistant animals, thus reducing the cost of meat and providing more food for the world. In January of 2008, the FDA decided that meat produced from clones and their progeny is acceptable for human consumption, but requested an indefinite waiting period before these products were brought into the market so that a smooth transition could be planned.
There is already some use of cloned livestock in Europe, particularly in dairy and beef livestock. In Switzerland, a few hundred cloned cows are used in the dairy industry, but this still accounts for a very small percentage of the over 1.5 million dairy cows in the country. There has been some experimentation in the United Kingdom as well, but the meat and dairy products of these animals has not yet gone to market. Despite the potential for some improvements in the food supply by using cloning in livestock, there are also serious issues to consider. First of all, there are obvious ethical questions to consider any time cloning is discussed. In addition, if a large proportion of a species becomes genetically identical, that species is much more susceptible to extinction if a serious pandemic were to occur.