The FDA is reviewing proposals to allow selling genetically engineered animals as food, which makes it sound like the descendants of Dolly the Cloned Sheep could end up on your plate as lamb chops. But bioethicist Arthur Caplan says wait before you jump to conclusions:
Some argue that it is inherently wrong for us to try and manipulate the heredity of animals. It is not our place to change the essential characteristics of a horse or a chicken. Nor can we be sure, critics worry, that genetically engineered animals will produce milk or meat that is absolutely safe to eat. And some critics worry that mixing genes from different species is not only unnatural but may wind up creating animals who wind up interbreeding with others and making offspring with traits that no one ever intended or anticipated.
These ethical worries are not all legitimate. In a world in which there are thousands of varieties of pigs, chickens, sheep, cows, dogs, cats and mice all made by humans using selective breeding, it is hard to argue that it is inherently wrong to change “the essence” of any animal. We have changed our domestic animals so much that their wild relatives can no longer recognize them. Genetic engineering speeds the process and allows more drastic changes to be undertaken, but it is not fundamentally different than what it took our ancestors a few thousand years to do to get to the Chihuahua, Pekingese, collie or Great Dane.
As for safety, who knows if genetically engineered pork chops will be any scarier than an American meal, which could consist of a Slim Jim, a Scooter Pie and a Red Bull.
His whole column is here.