- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 28, 2006

3:21 p.m.

The Food and Drug Administration said today that meat and milk from cloned animals is safe, opening the door for such products to enter the U.S. food supply late next year.

A risk assessment released today by the FDA shows that there is no public health risk from eating cloned food products.

Following a review of public comments on the agency’s risk assessment next year, sales of the cloned products — from cows, pigs and goats — could become a reality.

“It is almost inconceivable with what we know that this technology will introduce hazards to public health,” said Stephen Sundlof, director the Center for Veterinary Medicine at FDA. “We have looked for hazards and they just are not there.”

Because of unknown health risks associated with cloning, the FDA put a moratorium on the sale of meat and milk from cloned animals in 2001.

Cloning lets farmers and ranchers make copies of exceptional animals, such as pigs that fatten rapidly or cows that are superior milk producers. There are about 200 cloned animals in existence, which cost about $20,000 each to produce.

The likelihood of cloned meat and dairy products entering the food supply will remain slight even if the moratorium is lifted. Because of the high cost of the technology, cloned animals are primarily used for breeding, not for food, said Mr. Sundlof. Therefore, consumers would mostly get food from their offspring and not the clones themselves.

Cloned animals are derived from the healthiest animals in the herd and therefore are more disease-resistant and offer leaner meat than conventionally produced animals.

If the FDA does approve the foods after a 90-day comment period, they will not have to be labeled as coming from cloned animals or their offspring.

But consumer groups feel differently on the question of whether labeling is necessary.

“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,” said Joseph Mendelson, legal director of the Center for Food Safety, a Washington environmental advocacy organization.

The FDA has not made a final decision on the labelling requirement but did say that retailers and manufacturers may be able to label food products “clone free,” if the label is “truthful and does not imply it is safer than other products,” Mr. Sundlof said.

The FDA decision today is based on a substantial data from a number of studies, all of which have concluded that milk and meat from cloned animals is virtually identical to products from conventional animals.

“None of the studies … identify any remarkable nutritionally or toxicologically important differences in the composition of the meat or milk,” according to a draft of a paper to be published Monday in Theriogenology, a scientific journal on animal reproduction. The paper was written by scientists at the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine.

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