Bloggers on the FDA's approval of cloning.

The latest chatter in cyberspace.
Jan. 15 2008 5:54 PM

Cloning Around

Bloggers mull over an FDA report suggesting that there are no health risks associated with eating food made from cloned animals. They also reflect on President Bush's decision to offer "smart" bombs to Saudi Arabia and congratulate the children's book authors who won the 2008 Caldecott and Newbery Awards.

Cloning around: After a seven-year investigation, the FDA announced that eating cloned meat is just as safe as eating ordinary meat. The report is expected to pave the way for the entrance of cloned animal products into the U.S. market. The FDA will not require special labels; however, the USDA has asked for the indefinite continuance of a "voluntary moratorium" on selling cloned goods that has been in place since 2001.

Bloggers find plenty of problems with the FDA's finding. The Ethicurean's Bonnie P.  notes, "[T]he FDA also looked at long-term studies in which milk and meat from clones were actually fed to animals. They found no evidence of health effects, allergic reactions, or behavioral changes ate this diet for a whole three and a half months!!! What's the bleepin' rush, people?"  Simply Left Behind's Carl opines, "I dislike the fact that the FDA will allow cloned meats and milks onto the market without some distinction being made, to allow consumers a choice. If the argument is that labelling cloned meat as cloned will somehow hurt their sales, well then maybe that's a clue that more work needs to be done to ensure the safety of the product!" My Thought World's Chad, a conservative, notices that scientists are pronouncing cloned animals healthy based on observation—the same criteria that farmers use to evaluate ordinary animals. Pointing out that some of the clones in question possess added genes, he writes, "The reason the observation method was, by and large, reliable (up until recently) is because the technology for cloning was nonexistent."

But some are licking their lips. "Since at least some meats will derive from elite meat-producing animals, I personally will seek out cloned steaks when they become available," claims Radley Balko on Reason's blog, Hit & Run. He points out grapes, bananas, and some varieties of apples are cloned, and hails the European Food Safety Agency's recent decision to approve cloned animal products as "good news for science-based decision-making." And BuggBlog's Sean Bugg, editor of D.C.'s Metro Weekly, waxes metaphysical: "No word if they considered whether, in the future, one repeatedly cloned cow would eventually become aware of the existential crisis of being eaten again and again and again and again and again. Not that it'll stop me from eating them."

Read more about cloning. Study the FDA's risk assessment of animal cloning.

Smart and smarter: Yesterday, President Bush offered to sell "smart bombs" to Saudi Arabia during his first visit there, part of the administration's "push to contain Iran and terrorist groups." Congress has 30 days to renege; even though the sale is unpopular with Democrats and Republicans, it is expected to go through.

Noting that Israel is not opposing the sale because the United States has guaranteed it even smarter bombs, Israellycool's Elder of Ziyon fulminates against Saudi Arabia's lack of military expertise and suggests that terrorists will snatch the smart bombs and use them against Israeli civilians. "[I]n a world where asymmetric warfare is the prevailing wisdom, giving Israel a 'qualitative edge' in having 'smarter' bombs doesn't help Israel's defense a bit." Or not. "I, for one, am happy that American smart bombs come in different models. And that we sell the best ones to our actual friends," observes  the pro-Israel TigerHawk.

Bush's offer comes under fire elsewhere. Conservative Texas Fred believes "the Saudis are the very reason the attacks of 9-11 happened and this action is, in MY opinion, nothing less than giving aid, support and comfort to enemies of THIS nation, and that equates to nothing less than treason." Noting that the arms sale is supposed to help contain Iran, even though the IAEA has declared that Tehran is not pursuing a nuclear program, U.K. liberal Heathlander warns, "[N]o matter how unlikely a war may seem, we cannot afford to get complacent."

But Moon of Alabama's Bernhard, who manages a forum for readers of the now-defunct left-leaning Whiskey Bar, has a different take. "One is tempted to call these sales camouflaged extortion," he writes. "JDAMs [smart bombs] are strap-on guidance system for dumb gravity bombs. They depend on GPS satellite signals, something the U.S. can disable anytime. The weapons SA will purchase for a horrendous price are less capable than those Israel gets for free."

Read more about smart bombs and Saudi Arabia.

Librarians rule: The American Library Association handed out the big children's book awards Monday. Brian Selznick's graphic novel, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, won the Caldecott Medal. And a librarian, Laura Amy Schlitz, won the Newbery Medal for Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village.

Bloggers are pleasantly surprised at Selznick's victory. "The cheers and applause were truly notable during the announcement of a book that everyone assumed would be shut out by being neither here nor there in terms of award categories," notesMotherReader. "I really believe that Brian has created a new genre, and henceforth all books that combine pictures and a novel in such a flawless manner shall be deemed Selznickian," gushes Lisa Yee, an author of young-adult fiction. "2008 is going to be the year of the children's comic as never before," proclaims Heidi MacDonald on Publishers Weekly's comics blog, the Beat.

And Public Historian Suzanne Fischer hails Schlitz's book for energizing the field of children's historical fiction. "There's an air of stodginess that clings to historical fiction as much as it does to our small museums.  Let's air it out.  Historical fiction is perhaps the most visible and widely distributed genre of public history, and we should be reading, recommending, supporting, and even writing it!"

Why does the hoopla matter? "One main difference between prizes like the Caldecott and the Newbery and, say, the National Book Award or the Pulitzer, is that the children's prizes actually sell books," points out Julie Just on Paper Cuts, the New York Times' book blog.

Read more about the ALA's children's book awards. Check out Educating Alice, a judge's blog.

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