Food Navigator USA  [Printer-friendly version]
October 23, 2006


[Rachel's introduction: Most cloned animals are born with serious
biological defects. Yet the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is
about to approve them as food for humans. This is not precautionary.]

By Lorraine Heller

An FDA risk assessment that is expected to declare meat and milk
derived from cloned animals safe for the food supply is currently
being reviewed by the government, and is due to be released by the end
of the year.

If these documents are finalized, cloned animal products will become
part of the food supply, without the requirement for such foods to
carry special labeling. And this could result in a backlash of absence
claims, with 'clone-free' products starting to appear on supermarket

However, the move has inspired fierce criticism from consumer advocacy
groups, which claim that there is insufficient science to guarantee
the safety of products from cloned animals.

There is currently no regulation preventing cloned food from entering
the nation's food supply. But the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
has asked clone producers and livestock breeders to voluntarily
refrain from introducing food products from clones or their offspring
into the food supply until the agency endorses the findings of a
National Academy of Science (NAS) report it commissioned in 2002 that
declared cloned products safe for human consumption.

The FDA said its draft risk assessment is currently "in the clearance
process" and is being reviewed within the department and by other
governmental agencies, particularly the US Department of Agriculture

The documents are expected to be released by December, said the FDA in
a statement last week.

But while the government continues to examine the issue, a number of
consumer and industry groups have raised their voices against the
approval of such products.

According to public interest group Center for Food Safety (CFS), there
is "serious scientific concern about the food safety of products from
clones." The group points in particular to a 2004 New England Journal
of Medicine report, which stated that "given the available evidence,
it may be exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, to generate
healthy cloned animals."

However, the FDA said its draft risk assessment drew on over 100
scientific studies. Published in 2003, it concluded that "the current
weight of evidence suggests that there are no biological reasons to
indicate that consumption of edible products from the clones of
cattle, pigs, sheep or goats poses a greater risk than consumption of
those products from their non-clone counterparts."

At this stage, one of the main concerns for the industry is a lack of
definitive and forceful guidance from the FDA.

"We'd like to avoid going down the same path as twelve years ago after
FDA approved rBST (a genetically engineered bovine growth hormone that
increases milk production in cows). To this day there are still a lot
of different disclaimers being used, which must be accompanied by an
asterisk and explanatory text," said Chris Galen of the National Milk
Producers Federation (NMPF).

Galen told that the NMPF does not at this time
support milk from cloned cows entering the marketplace until FDA
determines that this is the same as milk from conventionally bred
animals. And when this happens, the agency needs to be proactive and
clearly and forcefully specify what claims are allowed, he said.

But other groups are taking a harder stand. Last week, the CFS, along
with reproductive rights, animal welfare, and consumer protection
organizations, filed a legal petition with the FDA calling for a
moratorium on the introduction of food products from cloned animals.

The petition calls for the establishment of mandatory rules for pre-
market food safety and environmental review of cloned foods. The
petition also calls for the Department of Health and Human Services to
establish a federal review committee to advise FDA on the troubling
ethical issues raised by animal cloning.

According to CFS, recent polls have shown that Americans would refuse
to buy food from cloned animals, and that they have serious concerns
about the ethics of animal cloning, with a majority of consumers
saying they would not buy cloned food, even if FDA deemed the products

However, according to Dr Mark Richards of KRC Research, "it is hard to
predict consumer behavior from polls, especially when they know little
about the issue."

"Before the introduction of rBST, experts predicted up to a 20 percent
drop in milk consumption. But milk consumption levels were not
affected at all," he told

For the time being, the FDA said that "in the spirit of transparency"
it is requesting producers of cloned animal products to continue to
refrain from introducing their products into the food supply until
there has been an opportunity for public comment and the risk
assessment is finalized.

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