The Land of (Cloned) Milk and Honey

cyclonedairyhoaxAmong the internet-based April Fool’s hoaxes was one that particularly caught my eye. Ben & Jerry’s put up a fake website advertising milk from 100% “perfect” cloned cows. I actually saw it last week before they copped to the joke and it took me a minute to realize it was a fake. (It was just too tongue-in-cheek to be real.)

The web was buzzing with speculation – who was behind it? On April 1, Ben & Jerry’s admitted they were the creators of the site and they also conducted sampling in New York City, which you can see at the link above. Passers-by were uniformly horrified at the prospect of drinking milk from cloned cows.

All this may seem far-fetched, but in January 2008, the FDA ruled that milk and meat products from cloned animals are safe for human consumption. According to this article, producers are now selling semen from cloned cows, so clones could already be in the food chain.

People are appalled, and companies as diverse as Kraft, Wal-mart, Tyson, PCC, and Ben & Jerry’s have pledged not to use products from cloned animals knowingly. But “knowingly” is the key word here.

How are producers or consumers to know unless we have a national tracking system in place? This tracking system is what Ben & Jerry’s is pushing for. Hopefully the hoax will help raise a public ruckus around the cloning issue. But the tracking system is a band-aid. It’s our government’s job to serve us. If the public doesn’t want products from cloned animals, it’s unacceptable that they were approved in the first place.

Can someone tell me why we need cloned cows anyway? It worries me to think of the biological vulnerability inherent in a species with identical genes. It’s difficult to see any potential for public good in cloning of this nature.

Vanessa Barrington

Vanessa Barrington is a San Francisco based writer and communications consultant specializing in environmental, social, and political issues in the food system.