Clones. It's What's for Dinner

Beef and milk producers can legally sell you cloned foods without telling you. Here's what to do about it.

In 1997, a sheep named “Dolly” was brought into this world with the use of a new technology called somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT). Ten years later, the dream of biotechnology companies and venture capitalists who saw Dolly as the beginning of another money-making scheme has become a reality.

In December 2006, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) deemed meat and milk from cloned animals and their offspring to be “safe” to eat. Industrial factory farmers may now sell you a steak or milk from cloned animals or their offspring without your knowledge -- no labeling is required. The FDA is likely to make this ruling permanent by the end of this year unless consumers take action.

Hundreds or thousands of cloned cows, pigs and other animals already exist in the U.S. Livestock. Factory farmers have been experimenting with the production of cloned animals for years.

What is Cloning?

Cloning is a technology for making a genetic replica (with the same DNA) of another animal.

The benefit for producers is that they can take their best animal -- the fattest cow, the most prolific producer of milk -- and make copies of that animal, most likely for breeding purposes.

Generally, the process begins with a tiny piece of skin from the ear of the donor animal. Cells are extracted from the tissue and grown in an incubator for two weeks. Then the cells can be frozen and stored or used immediately for cloning using an immature egg from a female animal’s ovaries typically shipped from a slaughterhouse overnight.

The actual cloning involves removing the nucleus from the egg, which is replaced with a different nucleus containing the DNA from the original adult cell donor to be cloned. Once the transfer of the nucleus from the adult cell is completed, the reconstructed egg has all the genetic material (DNA) from the nucleus of the donor adult cell. The newly reconstructed egg is then shocked with chemicals or electric current to stimulate the cell division, which may take up to 24 hours. The embryos that result from cloning process are placed in incubators. After seven days embryos are selected for transfer to the uterus of a surrogate female host (the mother animal). The clone is born resembling the adult progenitor nearly perfectly.

What's the FDA For, Anyway?

While surveys show that Americans recoil at the idea of eating cloned meat from cloned pigs or cows, the same Americans say that they would eat cloned food if the FDA says it’s safe.

Here is the FDA's role, according to its own web site:

"The FDA is responsible for protecting the public health by assuring the safety, efficacy, and security of human and veterinary drugs, biological products, medical devices, our nation's food supply, cosmetics, and products that emit radiation. The FDA is also responsible for advancing the public health by helping to speed innovations that make medicines and foods more effective, safer, and more affordable; and helping the public get the accurate, science-based information they need to use medicines and foods to improve their health."

But the difference between the FDA’s role and its slipshod policies couldn’t be more contradictory. One example of their negligence is the fact that 70 to 80 percent of all conventional food in the U.S. contains genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Consumers have no choice in the matter as no labeling is required. GMOs have been increasing in quantity in our diets since 1997. Corn and soybeans, for example, are heavily genetically modified and found in many processed foods.

This latest FDA ruling is no exception to its reprehensible exploitation of the American public. And yet, many Americans trust an agency that has repeatedly failed to protect them in favor of the financial interests of commercial, agricultural, biotechnological and pharmaceutical industries.

Let me say this very plainly: The FDA looks out for the interests of agribusinesses and pharmaceutical companies *at the expense of* the public interest.

The labeling of foods as "GMO" or "Cloned" would not cost producers a penny more. They would, however, enable consumers to make informed choices about what they put in their bodies, and what their groceries do to the environment. If you own a giant food company, then you can trust the FDA. If you buy food for your family, however, the FDA cannot be trusted.

Because the government is failing in its responsibility to protect the public, we must rely on companies to do so.

Dean Foods, the largest producer of milk in the U.S. (and the same company that owns Horizon Organic, Land O’Lakes, White Wave and Silk) announced this week that it will not sell milk or products derived from cloned animals because of surveys showing that Americans don't want dairy products made using cloned cow’s milk. The company does not, however, have a position about milk from sexually reproduced progeny or offspring of clones.

Other companies, such as Whole Foods, Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream and Organic Valley, have also said "no" to cloned animal products.

How Does Cloning Affect You?

Although, some scientific evidence suggests that cloned food is safe and that milk or meat from clones doesn’t look different from milk and meat from naturally conceived animals, other research suggests that cloned food is cause for concern.

Mutations can occur with every cell division during the cloning process. Healthy looking clones face genetic health problems at every stage of their lives. And although some contend that genetic abnormalities are not passed on to sexually produced offspring of clones, preliminary scientific research shows that there are subtle genetic abnormalities even in clones that appear to be healthy.

Ian Wilmut, one of the scientists responsible for creating “Dolly,” warned that consumers could be at risk by consuming cloned animals with any slight imbalances including hormonal, protein and fat imbalances.

The Human Genome Project Information Cloning Fact Sheet says that "cloned animals tend to have more compromised immune function and higher rates of Amira Elganinfection, tumor growth, and other disorders." Further, it says: " Japanese studies have shown that cloned mice live in poor health and die early. About a third of the cloned calves born alive have died young, and many of them were abnormally large." The page also lists a short reading list under the heading "Cloning Problems."

We don't know the long-term effects when people eat cloned-animals or their milk. Here's what we do know: Cloned animals are genetically different from naturally conceived animals. There is something very clearly wrong with them, biologically, and scientists don't know what, exactly. They tend to be sicker, have genetic mutations, die early, grown abnormally. Their bodies don't function normally.

But the FDA says it's safe enough for these science projects to show up on your dinner table, and you're not allowed to know about it.

Even those who have no objection to eating meat and dairy products from cloned animals have a concern about the lack of genetic diversity in reproductive cloning. Monocultures of genetically identical animals have higher risk of being killed off by the same disease. The risk of a species vulnerability to a single disease is just one example of the unintended behavioral and physical consequences of cloning.

All the foods and drugs now found (after approval and widespread use) to be "safe" by government regulators, but later considered deadly -- cigarettes, artificial colors, trans fats, etc. -- should give us caution about new food science approved for sale. We find out about the health effects of these products only after millions of people get sick.

Did you sign up as a subject in an experiment to test the long-term health effects of eating cloned products? I didn't.

Why Oppose Cloned Food?

Putting aside all ethical, moral and social issues, the simple answer is that we don’t need cloned food.

As a nation plagued by lifestyle related illnesses, we are already confronted with a broken food production system. There is something startlingly perverse about a government agency -- part of the executive branch of government headed by an elected public servant, and regulated by elected members of congress -- that colludes with huge companies to actively prevent people from knowing what they're putting in their bodies.

The FDA’s track record on their decision making speaks for itself. We simply don’t have a functional government agency in which we can feel confident that its decisions are based on hard science and irrefutable facts.

The FDA is the same agency that approved GMOs into our food supply. The same agency recklessly and irresponsibly approved the use of rBGH (recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone) in dairy cows, which now is known to produce health problems, including breast and prostate cancers.

What To Do?

1. Say no to cloned products. Never buy meat or dairy product from any company that has not publicly taken a stand against cloned animals.

2. Stop the FDA. Find a sample letter to the FDA here. And make sure you write a letter by April 2 demanding that cloned products be labeled as such. Also: Demand that the president and the congress force the FDA to protect the public at the very least through labeling. Go here to contact your elected representatives.


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Guiding Your Thoughts

"Always direct your thoughts to those truths that will give you confidence, hope, joy, love, thanksgiving, and turn away your mind from those that inspire you with fear, sadness, depression." - Bertrand Wilbertforce

Organic Black Bean Tortilla Chips

Although I very rarely eat chips of any kind, I like to try new things I see at the store. I recently bought a bag of organic brown rice & black beans Kettle tortilla chips. They're made with stone ground organic masa made with organic yellow corn, black beans, brown rice and sprouted yellow corn. A little salty like most chips, but they’re very tasty. And, unlike most tortilla chips, they taste great without any salsa or dip at all.

Green Carpet Rolled Out at Oscars

Christie Communications, a Santa Barbara-based company, displayed “The Ultimate Green Room” for Hollywood celebrities and VIPs. (The picture shows me with awesome Christie Communications CEO, Gillian Christie.)

The Ultimate Green Room hosted eco-friendly companies that promote natural living, environmental sustainability and eco awareness, and provided a place where Hollywood stars could discover and enjoy natural vegan food and experienced full spectrum lighting.

I had the opportunity to attend the party, and tried some of the delicious vegan foods and beverages at the event, many of which I had never heard of. Guests were treated to samples of Frutzzo pomegranate juice; all natural Indian cuisine from Kohinoor Foods; Mr. Krispers Baked Rice Krisps; Steaz Energy, the world's first and only USDA Organic and Fair Trade Certified energy drink and iZO jUiCE. The Ultimate Green Room even showcased healthy lighting from Full Spectrum Solutions.

I did see a few celebrities interviewed by E. T. and others. That was fun. The event took place Thursday, Friday, Saturday, but the Thursday event was so packed with interested attendees that you could barely move around.

To keep up with vegetarian, organic and health-related research news on a daily basis, check out my Vegetarian Organic Life Blog.

'Rawking' Kale

Kale is one of my favorite foods. It’s delicious and can be eaten in a variety of simple ways. Kale is a super food because it's packed with nutrients and low in calories. It has lots of vitamins A, B, C and K. It’s also rich in antioxidants and minerals, such as manganese, calcium and potassium.

Here are some easy ways of adding kale to your diet:

1. Eat it raw as much as possible to preserve its nutrients by adding it to sandwiches instead of lettuce.

2. Add it to your vegetable juice or even fruit smoothie.

3. "Rawk" it (see below) by mixing it raw in a bowl or plate with any piping-hot soup or meal.

4. Lightly sauté it for two minutes over low heat with a little oil, fresh garlic, lemon juice, salt and black pepper.

Rawking -- a word I came up with, short for "raw cooking" -- means semi-cooking something by mixing it with a cooked meal on a plate or bowl. No direct cooking of the vegetable ever takes place. The idea is to let it remain almost raw to preserve its nutrients, but letting it get hot and soft by the heat of the other foods only.

Here is how to "rawk" kale:
1. Remove the thick part of the kale’s stem by holding the leaf upside down from the thickest part of the stem. With the other hand swiftly slide your fingers down the stem over a cutting board to catch the leafy parts. Get rid of the stem, gather and chop up the leafy parts of the kale into large bite size pieces.

2. Place the kale directly in a bowl for soup or a plate for a solid meal

3. Add the hot or warm meal directly on top of the raw kale mixing and tossing the kale and the meal all together to allow the kale to soften and absorb the flavors.


Lentil Super Soup

Click on the picture for a closer look!

(Vegan) Serves 6 - I love lentils because they can be prepared in many different ways. These versatile small legumes make wonderfully nutritious soups. This particular soup is simply off the charts in flavor and a dear friend of mine who prepared a delicious curry lentil soup for me inspired it. Rawking makes this soup more nutritious (see “Food for Thought above). And best of all, the left over can be enjoyed with increased flavor.

Preparation time: 5 minutes Cooking time: 35 minutes Equipment: Food processor or blender

Get ingredients ready (use organic ingredients if possible)
1 tablespoon safflower oil
4 fresh garlic cloves, pressed or finely minced
1 medium onion, peeled and cut in 4 pieces
3 celery stalks, finely diced or chopped
3 large carrots, finely diced or chopped
2 cups fat free vegetable broth (32 oz)
6 cups water (add more if necessary)
1 ˝ cups brown lentils (rinsed well, soaked for 5 minutes and drained)
10 ripe plum tomatoes, skinless (or 28-oz canned whole peeled tomatoes)
1 tablespoon thyme
1 tablespoon basil
1 tablespoon curry
1 tablespoon cumin
1 teaspoon oregano
˝ teaspoon paprika
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves (optional)
2 cups edamames (frozen okay)
3 cups corn (frozen okay)
Freshly ground black pepper and sea salt
1 bunch fresh Kale, stem removed and coarsely chopped (about two cups per serving)
4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1. In a large pot, heat oil over low heat. Add onions and garlic sautéing for 5 minutes. Add celery and carrots stirring and sautéing for 5 more minutes. Add broth, water and lentils. Stir and cook over medium heat. Cover with lid.

2. In the meantime, in a food processor or blender puree tomatoes along with thyme, basil, curry, cumin, oregano, paprika and cilantro and add to pot. Stir occasionally and continue to cook for 10 minutes over medium heat. Set timer.

3. Add edamames, corn, salt and pepper. Mix well, cover with lid and simmer over low to medium heat for 15 more minutes or until the lentils reach the softness you desire (set timer).

4. For serving, prepare a bowl for each person with 1 to 2 cups of chopped raw kale. Serve the soup over the kale, add 1 tablespoon of lemon to each bowl of soup, mix and enjoy.



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