A recent article, "Cloned Cows: Less In, More Out" raised the question of food safety, since its sale was approved by the FDA last year.

However, my concerns are much more fundamental.  The article indicates that cloning is beneficial so "that we get more beef for our buck".  Suggesting that there is an economic incentive to ensure that we produce beef more efficiently.  However, I'm not clear how this would be achieved since the costs that go into the cows would be offset by the other expenses produced such as patent rights (U.S. Patent 6590139).

This seems like the "benefits" are not related to production as much as redirecting profits to the patent holder.

However, it would also be useful to consider what the point is of cloning cows.

It can't be because cows are hard to produce.  Breeding is pretty easy and animal husbandry has long practiced methods of ensuring that only the best traits are propagated forward.  So, while cloning can capitalize on a particular animal's genes, it also seems to be counter intuitive since it doesn't result in any improvements.  After all, a cloned animal is essentially fixed in time genetically, so it would be questionable to suggest that it can ever represent the "best" of anything.

Additionally it has the potential to create more secondary problems since all the other organisms that share the planet with cows aren't fixed in time, so one of the key concerns regarding cloning is whether it fixes the genetics to the point of where disease organisms will have an easier time of adapting.  Are we creating an environment where genetically identical cows become identically susceptible to a virus or bacteria that has "learned" to exploit a particular genetic profile?  

After all, where is the biological argument that less genetic diversity is ever a good thing?

More importantly, despite the claim of less input to produce more output, where are the numbers indicating how much is actually involved?  Are we talking about an extra 100 pounds of beef?  200 pounds?

In particular, given that cows are not difficult to produce and I seriously doubt that there is significant variation between healthy members in a herd, I have to question where this supposed benefit is going to come from.  The only conclusion I can come to is that it will do little or nothing to change or improve the food supply or its quality.  The only thing that will happen is that someone in the link between raising a cow and selling the beef will have an opportunity to make money where they might not otherwise.

This is a classic example of a "solution" looking for a problem for no better reason than that someone wants to make more money.  While making money is not uniformly bad, let's not pretend that we're solving some serious food problem.  Let's also remember that when the FDA approved the sale and safety of cloned beef, it wasn't because there was a beef shortage, but only because someone wants to be able to take shortcuts to improve profitability.  In short, governmental favoritism against traditional ranching practices.  You can be assured that whatever production costs are saved, you won't see them in the prices you pay for beef.