Los Angeles

In the News… Thursday, January 17, 2008

† Cloned Food in the Spotlight: News of the FDA’s announcement that food from cloned animals and their offspring is safe for consumption has spurred discussion and concern from several quarters. Andrew Martin’s article in the New York Times summarizes the FDA’s statement; Jerry Hirsch in the Los Angeles Times explains why many retailers, restauranteurs, chefs, and supporters of food diversity may stand in the way of widespread adoption of cloned products. Putting aside the “Frankenfood” specter of years past, long-term safety issues and the role of diversity in the health and well-being of animals and plants are at the top of the list of concerns, as is the likelihood that products from clones or their offspring will not be labeled as such, making consumer choice much more difficult.

† Then there’s “genetically fortified” food: When is a carrot not just a carrot? When it has been genetically altered to increase calcium absorption in the person who eats it? Alexis Madrigal writes about the biotech industry’s focus on food that does double duty–or more–and why some people believe this might be a key to winning over consumers who want more for their money.

† Is this another sign of “nutritionism”?: Michael Pollan talks about “nutritionism”–focusing on food as the sum of its nutrients–in his new work, In Defense of Food. Pollan talked with Tara Parker-Pope (of the New York Times’ “Well” blog) about this and related issues in today’s Q&A post. A taste:

Americans are a people so obsessed with nutrition yet whose dietary health is so poor. That strikes me as a paradox. We worry more about nutritional health, and we see food in terms of health. Yet we’re the world champs in terms of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and the cancers linked to diet. I think it’s odd. It suggests that worrying about your dietary health is not necessarily good for your dietary health.

and about the recent cloning announcements:

think the bigger concern with cloned animals is not personal health. It’s what will it take to keep a herd of genetically identical chickens, horses or pigs alive? Sex and variation is what keeps us from getting wiped out by microbes. If everything is genetically identical, one disease can come along and wipe out the entire group. You will need so many antibiotics and so much sanitation to keep a herd of these creatures going. The bigger concern should be antibiotic resistance.

Read the full exchange online.

† But on a lighter topic…: Yesterday’s Los Angeles Times featured “the lemon list” compiled by Amy Scattergood: “101 Things To Do With a Meyer Lemon.” A delightful reading companion is Charles Antin’s story, “My Little Lime-Green Lie,” recently published in Food & Wine and now available online.