"I Pledge my Head to clearer thinking,
my Heart to greater loyalty,
my Hands to larger service,
and my Health to better living,
for my club, my community, my country, and my world."
The blue-ribbon winner of the Iowa State Fair "Big Steer" competition at the Iowa State Fair this year was a clone of last year's winner.
As was reported in the Des Moines Register, "Doc" is a clone of "Wade," the 2008 champ, and both were shown by Tyler Faber, the son of the owner of a company specializing in advanced livestock genetic reproductive techniques. Tyler's father stated that "[t]he steer was cloned and shown at the fair to highlight cloning and what it can do." Doc's entry into the competition did not violate any rules, and his status as a clone was listed on his registration.
Even if one accepts Doc's success as evidence of the scientific advantage that cloning may present to the production of individual livestock, I have some problems with it . . .
First, again assuming that cloning a prize animal presents an advantage - doesn't cloning last year's winner raise some kind of fairness issue? How about all of the teens that do not have an extra $15,000 - 20,000 to invest in a cloned embryo?
Second, the whole purpose underlying Doc's entry seems to have been marketing. What an advertisement for Tyler's dad's business - the name of which is intentionally omitted from this blog. I don't like mixing advertising and children - and I don't like a government sponsored youth activity being used to showcase an individual's business venture.
Third, I am not comfortable with the not-so-subtle effort to advance the acceptability of cloning through 4-H channels. The fact that Doc was allowed to compete and to win is clearly part of the effort to get the public used to the idea of livestock cloning. It sends the message that cloning is not only okay, it produces winners.
With regard to my indoctrination complaint, however, I have to admit that I am off the mark historically - look what I found on the early history of 4-H, dating back to around the beginning of the 20th century -
[R]esearchers at experiment stations of the land-grant college system and USDA saw that adults in the farming community did not readily accept new agricultural discoveries. But, educators found that youth would "experiment" with these new ideas and then share their experiences and successes with the adults.I guess that most governments see the potential value of youth organizations. It is significant. I would argue that a special responsibility should go along with the associated educational role, however, particularly in a democracy. I hope that readers take the photo of the Young Pioneers with the good humor that was intended.
So rural youth programs became a way to introduce new agriculture technology to the adults.
Of course, my view of cloning colors my perceptions. I admit that if we were encouraging 4H youth to learn how to raise livestock without sub-therapeutic antibiotics instead of advising them that it is a good way to promote weight gain, I'd probably be all for it.
But, I find cloning to be such an ill-advised technological path. When we are now realizing that we have a significant problem with a lack of bio-diversity in almost all aspects of modern agricultural production, we develop an incredibly expensive new way to exactly replicate an individual animal? Who in the livestock industry is going to benefit from this technology? What is it going to do for beginning producers and smaller ranchers? What are the benefits for consumers?
I think we can do better with science and technology. We have some real problems to address.