Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Would I Eat Cloned Beef?

Yesterday, at a fancy corporate staff meeting, this question came up. It's what the VP of M&A asked the other VP's while we were waiting for the CEO.

I'd meant to write about this question a couple of months ago, but let it go since I didn't feel I had a very well founded answer. But since it's obviously fallen under the official mission of this site - staff meeting talk and cocktail party talk are almost interchangeable - I've decided to weigh in.

No, I'd prefer not to eat cloned beef. And it's not because I'm that squeemish, and it's not because I don't understand that I'm already eating cloned veggies and that cloning is not the equivalent of synthetic. I do understand all that.

But here's the thing. I went to India a few years ago, and the lemons there had an indescribably wonderful aroma that I've never encountered anywhere else. Ditto for the cucumbers. Ditto for the tomatoes. I suspect that 100 years ago, vegetables and fruit in the west had similarly wonderful aromas - that is before we started breeding them.

Sure, you'll say that Indians may have wonderful vegetables, but they don't have enough of them, because they don't use the more efficient bred varieties. That may be true, but at the moment we in the West don't seem to be suffering from a shortage of beef.

So what do I think of breeding of cows? Well, I acknowledge that it's made milk and meat that much more available. I just don't think we need to add that extra element of efficiency that cloning will bring to the process. And I sometimes wish I could taste what milk and meat would be like coming from one of those unbred cows of 200 years ago, tremendously better I would bet.

And then there's that small matter of biodiversity. We think we're so smart with our cloning abilities, but I'm not convinced we really know what we'll be getting ourselves into with cloning of animals. No, I'm not afraid these animals will be dangerous to my health, it's just that I prefer to have Betty the Cow retain her odd colored coat, while Fred the bull have an unusual black spot on his nose, and I'm willing to pay extra for it.


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