Here's an argument for becoming a vegetarian: In defense of a recent FDA ruling that it's OK to eat food from cloned animals, a spokesman for the National Milk Producers Federation said cloning likely would be used only to replicate "genetic superstars" for breeding -- "the George Clooneys of the cow set."
If that doesn't put you on a meat-free diet, nothing will.
Some years ago, after it was reported that scientists had figured out how to clone a cat, I wrote a column asking why anyone would want more cats, but cattle, pigs and chickens are another matter.
Most city folk can't tell a black Angus bull from a Hereford steer, so the possibility that the beef we eat may one day originate from the same cell likely won't greatly influence the nation's eating habits.
The FDA's decision stirred opposition from groups that lobby for humane treatment of animals and from some who think it's immoral to feast on other creatures.
Because many, if not most, of the animal products we consume are mass-produced in food factories, some of the criticism of cloning miss the mark. Let's face it, agribusiness conglomerates, which produce most of what America eats, haven't let nature take its course for a long time. Even animal propagation is manmade these days. What, with artificial insemination and in-vitro fertilization, they've taken the fun out of being a bull or boar.
Consumer groups should fret less about the dangers of eating cloned pork chops and more about risks inherent in our dietary dependence on an ever-shrinking gene base.
People who accept the Bible as literally true believe God used Noah to preserve all creatures following the deluge. When Noah saved one male and one female of every species, Creation was wading in a tiny gene pool, for sure. Despite Noah's prowess in animal husbandry, however, many critics think the agribusiness industry has created a dangerous situation through genetic engineering of basic foodstuffs.
Look what havoc avian viruses or hoof- and-mouth disease have wreaked around the world. Who's to say whether the U.S. corn crop one day could be wiped out by a virus that feasts on the hybrid strains patented by agribusiness giants?
If that happened, the Irish potato famine of the 19th century would look like a Sunday school picnic in comparison. Corn not only is a primary foodstuff for man and beast alike, but it also is used in countless things we eat or use every day.
The federal government is spending billions to subsidize production of corn-based ethanol. Ironically, a corn famine one day might mean people would lack fuel to drive to the supermarket, but that would be all right because there would be no food to buy anyway.
Fortunately, growing concern about engineered food has fostered a consumer movement toward locally grown food. All over America, people are turning to farmers markets, joining food co-ops or contracting with farmers to buy "crop shares" prior to planting season.
In "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle," Barbara Kingsolver's best-selling book about how her family lived off locally grown local food for a year, she points out that many people want to develop a personal relationship with the folks who grow what they eat. Also, when the food is produced, sold and consumed within the same region, enormous savings can be realized in transportation costs.
State and local government should develop incentives for the local food movement. For example, once the Charlotte Knights relocate, York County could provide space at Knights Stadium for a regional farmers market in Fort Mill.
The explosion of interest in healthy eating and in culinary careers, as exemplified by enrollment in programs in secondary schools and higher institutions such as Johnson & Wales University in Charlotte, has placed a premium on fresh food.
Why should government encourage this trend? If for no other reason than the easier it is for people to make money off their land, the less our open space will be paved over with tract subdivisions and strip commercial.
It's even possible that many of us will learn that there's more to food than Clooney Burgers.