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Attack of the Clones: U.K. Approves Food from Clones' Offspring

It's like something out of a bad sci-fi movie: cloned animals giving birth to genetically superior progeny, who populate farms by the thousands, producing vast amounts of milk and meat. Unfortunately, this very scene has already started in the United Kingdom, and the government just gave it the legal go-ahead.

There are more than 100 animals in the U.K. that are the offspring of cloned animals. Most are Holstein cows on dairy farms. And just this week, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) said meat and milk from these animals was perfectly fine to sell at grocery stores without special safety checks or - and here's the kicker - any special labeling. Apparently the FSA believes such labels are "unnecessary and disproportionate" and would provide "no significant food safety benefit to consumers." Really?

It was a controversial decision. To start with, there are still serious questions about such a new procedure. These cloned animals have more miscarriages, a higher rate of organ failure, and the offspring of cloned animals have a significantly higher rate of gigantism. Many cloned animals die early in their lives of heart failure, breathing difficulties, or a defective immune system. These disorders are obviously bad for the animals themselves, but it's also unclear if these sickly cows pose potential health risks to consumers. The research is paltry at best, so who knows what health issues may be discovered in the future?

In addition to the health and animal welfare concerns, cloning perpetuates factory farming. Cloned animals and their offspring will typically be raised in Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) conditions, which come with their own set of environmental and health problems.
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