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By Barbara H. Peterson  

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As I think about the ”food safety” bills HR 875, HR 814, and HR 759, I take a stroll through the web to see what I can find. Lo and behold, I find some very interesting information. 

I have been thinking about the connection between the genetic modification of animals and these bills. I wondered just how the agribusiness giants would keep track of their GM animals once they enter the mainstream food supply market. It’s one thing to go to a farmer’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.  

The following was published on January 15, 2009 at CNN: 

The Food and Drug Administration announced formal guidelines Thursday that will regulate the production of genetically engineered (GE) animals. 

“Genetic engineering is a cutting edge technology that holds substantial promise for improving the health and well being of people as well as animals,” Randall Lutter, deputy commissioner for policy at the FDA, said in a statement. 

“In 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.” 

The FDA emphasized GE animals are not cloned, but instead have new characteristics or traits introduced into the organism through their DNA. 

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 FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine. 

“We want the public to understand that food from GE animals will not enter the food supply unless FDA has determined that it is safe,” she said. 

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. 

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. (CNN)

Okay, but what do the tracking bills have to do with it? 

The breeding industry is mostly concerned with tracking animals descended from clones,” he says. Clones are genetic copies of other animals, but don’t necessarily have foreign DNA inserted. But most GM mammals, Hanson points out, are clones. “Once you get it right,” he says, “you clone it.” (AlterNet) 

Genetically modified meat is on its way, and the FDA has already approved clones, but there is a moratorium on them due to “marketing reasons.” 

The following information was obtained from World Science in an article dated January 16, 2008: 

Meat and milk from clo ned an­i­mals are as safe as that from their coun­ter­parts bred the old-fash­ioned way, the U.S. Food and Drug Ad­min­istra­t­ion said Tues­day – but sales still won’t beg­in right away.

The de­ci­sion re­moves the last big U.S. reg­u ­la­tory hur­dle to mar­ket­ing prod­ucts from cloned live­stock, and puts the FDA in con­cert with re­cent safe­ty as­sess­ments from Eu­ro­pe­an food reg­u­la­tors and sev­er­al oth­er na­t­ions.

“Meat and milk from cat­tle, swi ne and goat clones are as safe as food we eat eve­ry day,” said Ste­phen Sundloff, FDA’s food safe­ty chief.

But the gov­ern­ment has asked an­i­mal cloning com ­pa­nies to con­tin­ue a vol­un­tary mor­a­to­ri­um on sales for a lit­tle long­er – not for safe­ty rea­sons, but mar­ket­ing ones.

USDA Un­der­sec­re­tary Bruce Kni ght called it a tran­si­tion pe­ri­od for “al­low­ing the mar­ket­place to ad­just.” He would­n’t say how long the mor­a­to­ri­um should con­tin­ue…

…FDA won’t re­quire food mak­ers to la­bel if their prod­ucts came from cloned an­i­mals, al­though com­pa­nies could do so vol­un­tarily if they knew the source. Last month, meat and dairy pro­duc­ers an­nounced an in­dus­try sys­tem to track cloned live­stock, with an elec­tron­ic iden­ti­fica­t­ion tag on each an­i­mal sold. Cus­tomers would sign a pledge to mar­ket the an­i­mal as a clone. 

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. 

Tracking problem solved for the GM giants. You don’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 animals will already be 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 let’s connect the dots. We have patents on GM animals, and most GM animals are clones. The FDA has approved both for 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 royalties ”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.”

Isn’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 neighbor’s ranch. Since the neighbor is required to report and trace every animal’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 neighbor’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 like Percy Schmeiser, the neighbor is now responsible for a patent holder’s fee for that animal and any offspring it may have.

 

© Barbara H. Peterson

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