Being Jewishly-observant often gives me a rather odd view of the news. For example, when I first heard about Fry-O-Diesel, a Philadelphia-based company that is trying to perfect the process of converting waste grease to clean-burning fuel, my first thought was, "is this 'kosher'?" After all, this Philly-based company would surely be making their fuel from the greasy Philly favorite, the cheesesteak, and Jewish law forbids us from deriving any benefit from a milk-meat combination!
The same sort of odd thoughts went through my mind when I heard about the FDA's recent conclusion about cloned meat: It may be safe, but is it kosher?
I haven't been able to find any answers to that question yet. In the Orthodox community, most of the discussion about cloning to date has dealt with cloning humans: cloning for reproductive purposes, and cloning for medical purposes (e.g., for stem cell research and treatment). You may be surprised to hear that the Orthodox rabbinate for the most part supports stem-cell research, within some limitations.
It surprised me a bit that I couldn't find any serious discussion of the kashrut of clones, given that the highly-publicized first mammal cloned from an adult cell was Dolly the sheep, and sheep are kosher. That was followed two years later, by the cloning of cows in 1998. In 2000, pigs were cloned -- definitely not kosher!
I suspect that the kosher status of clones will not be a problem. It appears that Orthodoxy has already generally accepted the kashrut of genetically-modified foods, which is a much more dicey issue of Jewish law: it is essentially hybridization, which is against Jewish law, and it often involves splicing the genes of non-kosher animals into kosher plants, in addition to the unnatural production aspect that it shares in common with cloning. The consensus about GMOs seems to be that, although the process of creating them may be a violation of Jewish law, once they are created the means of their creation does not affect their kosher status, and the genetic material used is broken down to the point that it is too small to count.
- Kashrut: Jewish Dietary Laws at Judaism 101
Jewish Opinions on Cloning Generally
Please note: even though several of these titles use the word "kosher," they are speaking of meeting the requirements of Jewish law generally, not about Jewish dietary laws specifically; they mostly talk about cloning for reproductive or medical purposes
- Jewish law may not ban cloning, but it's still not kosher, from the Jewish Telegraphic Agency
- The Ethics of Cloning from the Jewish Virtual Library of AICE
- Human Cloning: Is It Kosher? from B'Or Ha-Torah
- Cloning by Rabbi Shraga Simmons at Aish.com
Jewish Opinions on Stem Cell Research
- Statement on Stem Cell Research from the Rabbinical Council of America (Orthodox)
- Is Stem Cell Research Ethical? from Aish.com
Jewish Opinions on Genetically-Modified Organisms (GMOs)
- Ask the rabbi Are genetically modified foods kosher?, concluding that it's not an issue of kashrut, though it might be an ethical issue
- Are genetically modified foods kosher? at AskMoses.com, concluding that even if non-kosher animals are used to genetically modify them, this does not make the GMOs non-kosher, but the process of genetically modifying in the first place may violate Jewish law
- What is the OU’s position regarding genetic engineering?, from the Orthodox Union (one of the world's largest and most widely accepted kosher certification agencies), concluding that genetic engineering does not affect kosher status, even if the genetic material comes from a pig
- Why Biotech Foods Are Kosher, from a biotechnology website, discussing the OU opinion above