As I write this, the food industry is waiting on a possible action from the Food and Drug Administration which could give the final go-ahead for the sale of cloned meat and milk. While critics are hoping to encourage the FDA to delay action until further research is completed, consumers appear to still be unsure of their opinions.
In order to help assuage consumer fears, two U.S. cloning companies (Viagen Inc. and Trans Ova Genetics) are offering an industry-led tracking system for cloned livestock. The system will require attaching an electronic identification tag to each cloned animal and if the animal is processed, marketing it as a clone.
The tracking system has the potential to create yet another brand distinction point on food shelves – adding to the list of options consumers must debate before making a selection. Already companies are coming forward saying they won’t sell meat/milk from cloned animals. To be clear, I’m not against giving consumers the right to choose what they purchase – after all, that is what America – the land of 1,000 marinades – is all about.
But what concerns me is that we are not giving the consumers the tools to make an educated decision. Survey after survey has revealed that consumers have little familiarity with cloning, biotechnology and animal breeding methods – and realistically, why would they? Now that the FDA is putting this issue on the national agenda, I think it is up the food industry to provide the tools for proper decision making to their consumers.
The information is out there. I was able to find a good amount of information, but as media, I also know exactly where to look. The everyday consumer is probably not going to go hunting through industry association websites or FDA documents. I say, put the information somewhere people can find it – in supermarkets, on product packaging, hey, in this day and age maybe animal cloning needs its own reality series – any place readily accessible to the people who need to make informed decisions.
Consumers want to make intelligent decisions and the food industry is poised to provide the knowledge consumers need to do so.
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