Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Mad-Cow Proof Cows?

An article in Science Daily is reporting that the U.S.D.A's Agricultural Research Service "scientists evaluated cattle that have been genetically modified so they do not produce prions, and determined that there were no observable adverse effects on the animals' health."

The article addresses protecting the cattle from bovine spongiform encephalopathy, so called "Mad Cow Disease." What it doesn't discuss is the suspected link between Prions and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Prions are suspected to be the cause of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, a rare and always fatal disease.

While the link between BSE and CJD is a hotly debated topic in certain circles (the beef industry sued Oprah Winfrey in 1997 for linking BSE and CJD), there is no doubt that both are caused by prions. ; Science Magazine first reported the link between BSE and CJD in 1996, a position that was reinforced with further study in 1997 and 2006.

This report is more interesting following closely as it does on news that the FDA recently issued a report saying that cloned animals were safe to eat:

The government declared Thursday that food from cloned animals is safe to eat. After more than five years of study, the Food and Drug Administration concluded that cloned livestock is "virtually indistinguishable" from conventional livestock.

FDA believes "that meat and milk from cattle, swine and goat clones is as safe to eat as the food we eat every day," said Stephen F. Sundlof, director of the FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine.

Officials said they don't think special labels are needed, although a decision on labeling is pending.

I'm as a big a fan of progress as anybody (heck, technology and science is how I make my living) but I can't help but worry that we're not nearly as smart as we think we are and need to proceed with caution. Particularly when authorities are telling us "trust us."

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