Saturday, August 28, 2010

Cloned Steer Wins Iowa 4H Competition

"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.

So rural youth programs became a way to introduce new agriculture technology to 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.

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.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think a couple of issues arise that one needs to think about. One, for years beef packing plants have wanted a consistent product; more steers/heifers grading the Choice grade and better yield grades. Could this be a way to replicate those superior genetics to do that? Maybe. Maybe not. Second, on the whole fairness issue, let's stop and realize that some people now spend anywhere from $20,000 to even $50,000 on a 4-H steer or heifer project as a young prospect animal. Who has those kinds of resources? Not many. So if we call into question the whole fairness issue, we need to step back and ask ourselves if we should cap what people can spend on a show animal. There's no way to do that; it's a free market society. Does it teach the kids more on the project to spend that kind of money on animal whether your buying the animal or paying to clone an animal? Most would say no. People pay the big money to get the genetics or to win the show. Now, is cloning appropriate in the terminal market/show steer industry? Probably not. It probably should be geared toward breeding animals where one propagates progeny from those superior animals. Yes, cloning is a hot issue; just like other past reproductive advancements that a lot of people can't afford (embryo transfer and/or in vitro fertilization).

9/09/2010 4:20 PM  
Anonymous Science Center of Iowa said...

Hello Everyone!

Please join us for the next Café Scientifique on September 30th with Dr. Curtis Youngs, Associate Professor of Animal Science at Iowa State University and his discussion on “Embryo Transfer: Reproductive Life in the Fast Lane” from 5:30-7pm at Dos Rios in downtown Des Moines.

Discussion Topic:
Embryo transfer is a reproductive technology used to enhance genetic improvement of livestock. Fertilized eggs (embryos) are recovered from the uterus of a genetically superior female and transferred into the uterus of a surrogate female for gestation, allowing a genetically ordinary female to give birth to a genetically extraordinary offspring. Embryos may also be frozen, bisected, tested for genetic sex prior to transfer, or produced in the laboratory using in vitro fertilization or nuclear transfer technologies.
If you are fascinated by life, you will be captivated by the creation of life through embryo transfer technologies.

Attached you will find the poster with more information, please feel free to print and post. Of course please invite your friends, family and colleagues.

Next event:
“Human Origins: Old Bones Speak” - Moderated by: Tafline Crawford, Ph.D. Des Moines University, Dept. of Anatomy

We hope you can join us for a great evening!

9/20/2010 3:03 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I guess that most governments see the potential value of youth organizations. Is significant. I'd say a special responsibility must go hand in hand with the educational function associated, however, particularly in a democracy. I hope that readers will have the photo of the pioneers of youth with good humor that intended.Of heard my point of view of the cloning of colors my perceptions. I confess that if we were encouraging young people to learn 4H livestock raised without subtherapeutic antibiotics instead of reporting is a good way to promote weight gain would probably be all for it.

10/25/2010 11:58 PM  

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