By Barbara H. PetersonÂ Â
As IÂ think about theÂ â€food safetyâ€ bills HR 875, HR 814, and HR 759, I take a strollÂ through the web to see what I can find. Lo and behold, I find some very interesting information.Â
I have been thinking about the connectionÂ between the genetic modification of animals and these bills. I wonderedÂ just how the agribusiness giants would keep track of their GM animals once they enter the mainstream food supply market. Itâ€™s one thing to go to a farmerâ€™s canola field and take samples back to the lab for testing to see if they contain the patented GM gene, but a whole cow? Not likely.Â Â
The following was published on January 15, 2009 atÂ CNN:Â
The Food and Drug Administration announced formal guidelines Thursday that will regulate the production of genetically engineered (GE) animals.Â
â€œGenetic engineering is a cutting edge technology that holds substantial promise for improving the health and well being of people as well as animals,â€ Randall Lutter, deputy commissioner for policy at the FDA, said in a statement.Â
â€œIn this document, the agency has articulated a scientifically robust interpretation of statutory requirements. This guidance will help the FDA efficiently review applications for products from GE animals to ensure their safety and efficacy.â€Â
The FDA emphasized GE animals are not cloned, but instead have new characteristics or traits introduced into the organism through their DNA.Â
The new guidelines would require all GE animals to go through rigorous scientific testing before being sold on the market, according to Dr. Bernadette Dunham, director for the FDAâ€™s Center for Veterinary Medicine.Â
â€œWe want the public to understand that food from GE animals will not enter the food supply unless FDA has determined that it is safe,â€ she said.Â
So, the FDA approves GM animals for the food supply, and just like the canola, the products from them such as meat, milk, etc., do not have to be labeled.Â
Consumers will more than likely not see any changes in labeling of these animal products. Unless the physical makeup of the animal is altered, companies and producers will not be required to let consumers know their meat products come from a genetically engineered animal.Â (CNN)
Okay, but what do the tracking bills have to do with it?Â
The breeding industry is mostly concerned with tracking animals descended from clones,â€ he says. Clones are genetic copies of other animals, but donâ€™t necessarily have foreign DNA inserted. But most GM mammals, Hanson points out, are clones. â€œOnce you get it right,â€ he says, â€œyou clone it.â€ (AlterNet)Â
Genetically modified meat is on its way, and the FDA has already approved clones, but there is a moratorium on them due to â€œmarketing reasons.â€Â
The following information was obtained from World Science in an article dated January 16, 2008:Â
Meat and milk from cloÂ ned anÂiÂmals are as safe as that from their counÂterÂparts bred the old-fashÂioned way, the U.S. Food and Drug AdÂminÂistraÂtÂion said TuesÂday – but sales still wonâ€™t begÂin right away.
The deÂciÂsion reÂmoves the last big U.S. regÂuÂ ÂlaÂtory hurÂdle to marÂketÂing prodÂucts from cloned liveÂstock, and puts the FDA in conÂcert with reÂcent safeÂty asÂsessÂments from EuÂroÂpeÂan food regÂuÂlaÂtors and sevÂerÂal othÂer naÂtÂions.
â€œMeat and milk from catÂtle, swiÂ ne and goat clones are as safe as food we eat eveÂry day,â€ said SteÂphen Sundloff, FDAâ€™s food safeÂty chief.
But the govÂernÂment has asked anÂiÂmal cloning comÂ ÂpaÂnies to conÂtinÂue a volÂunÂtary morÂaÂtoÂriÂum on sales for a litÂtle longÂer – not for safeÂty reaÂsons, but marÂketÂing ones.
USDA UnÂderÂsecÂreÂtary Bruce KniÂ ght called it a tranÂsiÂtion peÂriÂod for â€œalÂlowÂing the marÂketÂplace to adÂjust.â€ He wouldÂnâ€™t say how long the morÂaÂtoÂriÂum should conÂtinÂueâ€¦
â€¦FDA wonâ€™t reÂquire food makÂers to laÂbel if their prodÂucts came from cloned anÂiÂmals, alÂthough comÂpaÂnies could do so volÂunÂtarily if they knew the source. Last month, meat and dairy proÂducÂers anÂnounced an inÂdusÂtry sysÂtem to track cloned liveÂstock, with an elecÂtronÂic idenÂtiÂficaÂtÂion tag on each anÂiÂmal sold. CusÂtomers would sign a pledge to marÂket the anÂiÂmal as a clone.Â
So, we have GM cloned animals set to go to market, no labeling required, and bills set to implement a tracking system for all livestock.Â
Tracking problem solved for the GM giants. You donâ€™t have to go to a field and drag a cow back to the lab, or bring your equipment to the cow. If these bills pass, the animalsÂ will already beÂ in a database, courtesy of Congress.
And just what does this mean to the small rancher?
(1988) The United States Patent and Trademark Office, in a new policy that could substantially change how lifestock and poultry are sold, has determined that companies holding patents on new animal forms have the authority to require farmers to pay royalties.
The royalties would be paid on the sales of patented animals and on generations of their offspring, meaning that farmers would have to pay patent holders a fee for adult animals and for generations of calves, colts, lambs, chicks, and piglets produced through the 17-year life of the patent. (New York Times)
Now letâ€™s connect the dots. We have patents on GM animals, and most GM animals are clones. The FDA has approved both forÂ our food supply, with no labeling required. We have, poised to be set in motion, a tracking system for all animals. Farmers have to pay royaltiesÂ â€on the sales of patented animals and on generations of their offspring, meaning that farmers would have to pay patent holders a fee for adult animals and for generations of calves, colts, lambs, chicks, and piglets produced through the 17-year life of the patent.â€
Isnâ€™t this beginning to sound familiar? Does Percy Schmeiser ring a bell? Here is a possible scenario:
A GM bull gets out of a factory farm down the road and mates with a regular cow on a neighborâ€™s ranch. Since the neighbor is required to report and trace every animalâ€™s movements, he must account for the new calf or face penalties. The factory farm has reported that the bull has gotten out, and was recovered at the neighborâ€™s ranch. The neighbor does not have a bull, so it is logical to assume that this new calf is a product of the GM bull and his cow. If testing shows that the calf is GM, just likeÂ Percy Schmeiser, the neighbor is now responsible for a patent holderâ€™s fee for that animal and any offspring it may have.
Â© Barbara H. Peterson