Regarding the Dec. 29 article, "FDA plan would OK cloned meat": There was no reason to believe the safety of food from cloned animals would be different from noncloned animals. The real issue is public perception. A recent Pew study notes that 64 percent of respondents are uncomfortable with animal cloning. However, 43 percent of the respondents knew little or nothing about it, with increased support for cloning among the better educated and informed. Thus, informing consumers will be the cloning industry's big challenge, and a notoriously expensive proposition.
Some companies will make "noncloned" part of their marketing just as they do with "organic." And good for them. That's what makes a market. But eventually, if meat or milk producers can make a better and less expensive product by cloning animals that are the most efficient producers of the best milk or meat, they will and should do so.
The chemistry of cloned food products is identical to noncloned products; there is no reason to fear it. If cloning animals can ultimately give consumers extra available cash to buy a better house or a nicer vacation, then we should applaud the advance just as we do with any technological change that improves our standards of living.
The Dec. 29 article about cloned meat was interesting, but it missed what I believe to be the main danger posed by cloned food: food monoculture.
If cloning turns out to be a cheap and effective way of getting low-cost, high-quality meats, we are in danger of having all of our major meat supplies coming from just a few animals.
This could subject us to the danger of mass illness in livestock because just as every single cloned animal will have the same strengths as the original, it will also have every single weakness. And that could open us up to the danger of a meat shortage.
South Bend, Ind.
In response to the Jan. 4 article, "Atheists challenge the religious right": I am a Christian who rejects the religious right. However, I find atheists Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins as frightening as conservative Christians Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson. The term "secular fundamentalism" is completely appropriate. Fundamentalism in any form is dangerous. There are religious progressives, but why are they rarely heard from? Why do Americans only seem to hear from the religious right and the secular left?
I believe if religious progressives had more media attention, there would be fewer occasions when working people would vote for Republican-right candidates (sometimes against their own interests) because of hot-button issues such as abortion, gay marriage, and stem-cell research.
Brandon D. Hunt
Terre Haute, Ind.
Regarding the Jan. 2 article, "The Pentagon goes Hollywood": The plan of the Department of Defense to sex-up science in order to get more young people interested appears disingenuous. Instead of spending money marketing science, the government would better serve society if it increased federal spending on science itself. As it is, there are too many scientists stuck in interminable "temporary" postdoctoral positions. Once more permanent positions open up, I would be more comfortable trying to attract young people into the field. Otherwise, they'd just add to the ranks of the marginally employed.
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