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The FDA Says Cloned Milk & Meat are A-Ok ...
How Soon Before You'll be Eating It (Without Knowing It)?

At the end of December 2006, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a ruling on something that was once only talked about in science fiction novels: food from cloned animals, specifically meat, milk, cheese and other products, are safe to eat.

food products cloned animals

If the FDA's decision to approve food products from cloned animals and their offspring becomes final, cloned food could hit supermarket shelves in 2008.

According to the FDA's preliminary approval, federal scientists found that meat and milk from cloned animals or their offspring were virtually identical to food from conventional sources.

"Meat and milk from cattle, swine and goat clones is as safe to eat as the food we eat every day," said Stephen F. Sundlof, director of the FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine. (Sheep clones were not included in the report, as officials said there was not yet enough information to make a decision.)

When Could Cloned Meat and Milk Hit the Supermarket?

Currently, the FDA has only issued preliminary approval. This means that final approval is still months away, and cloned food products wouldn't likely reach your supermarket until 2008.

There is now a 90-day period when the public can comment on the FDA's decision, and during the review period the FDA has asked farmers to, voluntarily, refrain from selling cloned food products.

"You can't tell them apart," said L. Val Giddings, a vice president of Biotechnology Industry Organization and a former Agriculture Department geneticist, referring to cloned and conventional animals. "There is not an analytical, scientific test you can use to tell one from another. You just can't do it."

Consumers Uneasy With Cloned Food Products

Overall, national surveys have found that most consumers are uneasy with the idea of eating cloned food. According to a December 2006 poll by the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology, 64 percent of those surveyed were "uncomfortable with animal cloning," while only 22 percent felt OK with it. Out of frequent churchgoers, 76 percent were uncomfortable with the idea, suggesting possible religious and ethical objections to cloning.

Another survey, this one conducted by the Food Information Council in November 2006, found that 58 percent of Americans polled would be "unlikely to buy meat or milk from cloned animals, even if supported by FDA safety endorsements." Only 16 percent of those surveyed said they viewed cloning in a favorable light.

Meanwhile, the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA), which says there are about 150 clones from a total of over 9 million dairy cows (now used mostly as show animals), fears that overall sales could drop by 15 percent if clones become a part of the food supply.

"Consumers have expressed concerns about buying food from cloned animals. Once FDA has finalized its review, it will be up to individual companies to decide on the marketing of products made from milk from cloned cows," said Susan Ruland, IDFA's vice president of communications.

No Labeling Required

Part of the cloned meat and milk controversy stems from the fact that the products would not include labels saying they came from cloned animals or their offspring.

food products cloned animals fda

You can submit your own comments to the FDA regarding food from cloned animals by visiting the FDA dockets Web site.

"When they deny us mandatory labels, they don't just deny us the right to choose," said Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the Center for Food Safety (CFS). "They also deny our health professionals the ability to trace potential toxic or allergic reactions to this food. It's bad enough they're making us guinea pigs. But when we have health effects, we won't be able to trace it."

Further, food companies that do wish to state their products are clone-free may also run into opposition.

"If the statement implies that that particular product might be safer than another product, FDA would not allow that," Sundlof said. "But there may be room for providing a contextual statement that is truthful and not misleading."

Growing Opposition From Consumer Groups

CFS, along with environmental and animal welfare organizations, have come out against cloned food and filed a legal petition in October 2006 seeking a moratorium on foods from cloned animals or their offspring.

"This [government] administration is on both sides of the fence. It is against cloning in humans, but when it comes to animals, they approve it. They seem to want to be able to roll out the model T-Ford of cattle. The public should fight it," said Joseph Mendelson, a CFS spokesperson.

While proponents state that cloned meat and milk will provide consumers with a better product at a cheaper price, opponents fear there are safety issues that haven't been discovered, along with ethical issues that aren't being addressed.

"Consumers are going to be having a product that has potential safety issues and has a whole load of ethical issues tied to it, without any labeling," Mendelson says.

If you would like to submit your comments to the FDA regarding food from cloned animals and their offspring you can do so at the FDA dockets Web page.

Recommended Reading

The Meat You Eat: How Corporate Farming Has Endangered America's Food Supply

What is REALLY in a Hot Dog? And How Unhealthy Are They?

Sources January 5, 2007 January 5, 2007

Science Daily January 4, 2007 December 28, 2006

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