RURAL ROUTES/Margot Ford McMillen

Life on the Supply Chain

To kick off the 2008 food abasement season, the FDA has approved cloned animals as meat for American consumers. Now, the entire world asks, “Why?”

To answer, the inventors in the “Life Sciences” industry have slyly distracted us by partially answering the question, “What?” We’re told that cloned animals are just like ordinary animals, except that they have only one genetic parent. That means that scientists have figured out how to reproduce the most serviceable males and females, without the inconvenience of the occasional klutz.

The “genetic material” from a winner is “extracted” from a skin cell. At the same time, the “genetic material” is extracted from the egg of another animal. The winner’s “genetic material” is put into the barren egg, then the combination is zapped with electricity to begin reproduction. Since the “genetic material” comes from just one animal, the reproduction becomes an exact genetic copy of that superior critter.

This invention doesn’t happen easily. It takes laboratories and graduate students, sterilized gloves and antibiotics sprayed on all the lab surfaces. It takes money. A cloned animal will cost at least $20,000. A normal breeding Angus animal might go for $2,000 or even less.

So, the inventors say, cloned critters won’t be in the food supply, but their offspring will. And these offspring, the inventors promise, will be superior to anything else we have eaten. Just the right amount of fat, and the correct kinds of fat to boot. Just enough skin and bones to support the animals and the bare minimum of feed requirements. These offspring of cloned animals, the inventors tell us, will be the consumers’ dream.

We’ve heard this story before. It’s the same thing we heard when they introduced milk produced by cows on growth hormones. They said that milk was just like milk produced by normal cows, but more plentiful. Now, after a generation of kids raised on BGH milk, they’re admitting that the hormones go into our food system and that the cost may be obesity and early-onset puberty. Not to mention cruel treatment of bovines. Finally, after decades of activism from consumers, producers are phasing out bovine growth hormones, or BGH.

And we heard that genetically modified seeds were “just the same” as seeds produced normally in the corn field. Except that some of those seeds were changed with the addition of bacteria genes that kill insects. And that “Bt” genetic insecticide is in every cell of the plants. It cannot be washed off. And we’ve been eating that insecticide in our processed foods — corn flakes, taco shells, cheese doodles.

We don’t know if there’s been an effect on our bodies because there haven’t been any definitive studies, but we do know that the Bt genes have leaked out of the intended plants into other plants. And now the insect world, including pollinators, is disappearing. And no one can explain why. The solution may be to breed pollinators that are just like the old ones but resistant to the herbicide.

It’s a chilling prospect: A world full of plants and animals designed in laboratories to resist other things designed in laboratories. If you think that’s a neat idea, my friend, you should be working in the Life Sciences field. Those guys, by the way, want to promote cloning as a way of reproducing invented animals. They’ve already come up with critters that “fluoresce” under black lights, and they’re working on animals that carry human organs to be harvested an transplanted into folks that have worn their organs out.

But, regarding the FDA approval of cloned beef in your burger, the question is still, “Why?” And the related query, “Who benefits?”

I was pondering this question when, on my way to the state capitol to meet a bunch of farmers protesting the industries that are taking away markets, a truck passed me on the highway. “Delivering supply chain solutions for the food industry” said the logo on the truck.

I had to read the logo a couple of times before I realized that “supply chain solutions” is the point of cloning.

Treating animals and farmers as part of a “supply chain” means delivering a consistent animals as consistent as cogs on a gear to the slaughterhouse on a consistent schedule. With animals as consistent as cogs on a gear, the machinery can be set to stun, skin, cut up a carcass with little or no human intervention.

It starts with the pregnancy which, as we have seen, can be manipulated to produce a perfect baby animal. By impregnating a set of females each day, and feeding the measured amounts of feed for each day’s gain, the industry doesn’t take any gamble in the “supply chain.”

But wait! There’s more!

The big prize is appropriation of genetic material. The genes of the cloned animal can be claimed through patenting. And, when a corporation can own a genetic sequence, it can claim that other users have stolen it and those other users owe a patent fee. Claiming ownership over genetic structures through patents is the major goal of the “Life Sciences” industry.

Consumers haven’t asked for cloned animals. The new animals offer no advantages. What clones are good for is allowing major corporations to own life.

Life itself.

Margot Ford McMillen farms and teaches English at a college in Fulton, Mo. Email:

From The Progressive Populist, February 15, 2008

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