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Cloned Meat: The Hidden Agenda

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Pete Shanks
January 15, 2007

Who is pushing to legalize cloned meat? Follow the money -- and there are strong connections to human genetic engineering.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA)'s draft risk assessment leans heavily on the work of animal-cloning companies Cyagra and ViaGen. Over a quarter of the 700-page draft is a data dump from those two -- a fact that the New York Times failed to mention, even when quoting the president of ViaGen saying "I think that this draft is going to provide the industry the comfort it needs."

ViaGen is part of the Exeter Life Science Group, owned by billionaire John Sperling, who also financed the notorious Genetic Savings and Clone (GSC). Viagen's chief scientist, Irina Polejaeva, was once GSC's, and when GSC closed ViaGen took over their gene banking operation. The cloned pets were rightly described by Wired as "a footnote to John Sperling's grand plan" -- and so are the cows and pigs. The plan is people -- living forever.

Cyagra was a subsidiary of Advanced Cell Technology (ACT), of press-release infamy. ACT sold Cyagra in one of its desperate grabs for cash, but chief scientist Robert Lanza and his former colleague Jose Cibelli (a co-author of Hwang Woo-suk's and a former consultant to the California stem cell institute -- it's a small universe) are cited throughout the FDA report.

The surface agenda the FDA addresses is public safety (though Stuart Newman says "it's potentially a health hazard"); the agenda hidden in plain sight is that of commercial interests; and behind that lies the specter of human genetic engineering. It's a mutually reinforcing spiral: The animal cloners have been relying on human medical research (and of course feeding the starving) to make their work seem less unacceptable -- and the human cloners rely on the animal work to make theirs seem more reasonable.

The public does not want cloned meat and certainly wants it to be labeled, which the FDA says it cannot require. All the more reason to object now. The Center for Food Safety has been opposing animal cloning for years. So has the Organic Consumers Association, which has set up a handy site for responding to the FDA's call for public comment.

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