-- A long-awaited study by US scientists has
concluded that meat and milk from cloned
animals and their offspring are safe to eat
and drink and should be allowed to enter the
food supply without any special labeling.
The finding is a strong signal that the
Food and Drug Administration will endorse the
use of cloning technology for cattle, goats,
and pigs when it publishes a key safety
assessment intended to clear the way for
formal approval of the products. That
assessment is expected this week.
"All of the studies indicate that the
composition of meat and milk from clones is
within the compositional ranges of meat and
milk consumed in the US," the FDA scientists
concluded in a report published in the Jan. 1
issue of the journal Theriogenology, which
focuses on animal reproduction.
The study, however, prompted a sharp
reaction from food safety advocates.
The FDA "has been trying to foist this bad
science on us for several years," said Andrew
Kimbrell, executive director of the nonprofit
Center for Food Safety in Washington. "When
there is so much concern among so many
Americans, this is really a rush to judgment."
Many ranchers and dairy producers have
already cloned animals for meat and milk
production, but a voluntary moratorium
initiated about five years ago by the FDA has
largely kept them and their offspring out of
grocery stores and restaurants.
However, ranchers say there is no doubt
that some of the animals taken to
slaughterhouses in the past couple of years
have been fathered by clones.
"There's been lots and lots of them that
went into the food chain," said Larry Coleman,
who raises limousin cattle in Charlo, Mont.,
and has made five clones of his prize bull,
named First Down. He estimated that at least
10 of their offspring have wound up on dinner
Since Dolly the sheep was cloned in 1996,
agricultural scientists have imagined a time
when they could dispense with the
uncertainties of conventional breeding and
make exact copies of their best animals. Cows
were cloned in 1998 and pigs followed in 2000.
Consumers greeted the news with a
combination of amazement and revulsion.
Cloning involves removing the nucleus from
a donor egg and replacing it with DNA from a
prized animal. If all goes well, a tiny
electric shock induces the egg to grow into a
genetic copy of the original animal.
Scientists often refer to clones as identical
twins born at a different time.
The FDA sees cloning as a natural extension
of the livestock reproductive technologies --
such as artificial insemination and in vitro
fertilization -- that have become routine,
said spokesman Doug Arbesfeld.
Though cloning is expensive -- Coleman paid
$60,000 to clone First Down -- producers have
embraced it for the efficiencies it can bring
to a farm or ranch. If a particular bull
consistently produces strong offspring or a
dairy cow is an unusually prolific milk
producer, those advantages can be multiplied
But a study released this month by the Pew
Initiative on Food and Biotechnology found
that 64 percent of Americans are uncomfortable
with animal cloning and that 43 percent
believe food from clones is unsafe.
Safety isn't the only concern among
consumers. Carol Tucker Foreman, director of
the Food Policy Institute at the Consumer
Federation of America, based in Washington,
said the primary issue is that the food should
be labeled so consumers can avoid products
derived from clones if they wish.
"I should have freedom not to spend my
money and not to eat products that offend me,"
she said. "Some people only drink free trade
coffee. Others only choose organic food.
Others choose halal or kosher food. This
product, which causes great discomfort to a
great number of people, goes on the market
with no labeling that enables me to make a
The FDA scientists who wrote the paper,
Larisa Rudenko and John C. Matheson, concluded
there was no basis for flagging the meat and
milk products or for treating them differently
than other food products.
"The US food safety system is designed to
screen meat and milk for hazards, regardless
of the means by which the animals were
derived," they wrote. "There is no
science-based reason to apply additional
The paper relies on dozens of studies from
around the world, many of which examined
genetic and health problems in cloned animals
and the risks to surrogate mothers that carry
cloned embryos to term.
The scientists also analyzed 13 studies on
the composition of meat and milk from clones
and their offspring. Vitamins, minerals,
proteins, fat, and other content showed no
"nutritionally or toxicologically important
differences," they concluded.
Skeptics remain unconvinced. Kimbrell, of
the Center for Food Safety, said too few
animals have been cloned to conclude that they
are safe to eat. He also said more independent
research is needed.
Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of
California, and six other senators sent a
letter recently to Health and Human Services
Secretary Mike Leavitt, whose department
includes the FDA, asking that he require a
more thorough review of the available
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