- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 24, 2002

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) Juicier chops, thicker steaks and other food produced by cloned animals could be in grocery stores by next year.
Atlantic salmon fattened with genes spliced from other fish, though, remain years away from the American dinner table.
A long-awaited report to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration released this week made an important distinction between cloned animals and transgenic beasts, those altered with genes from other species.
It said cloned animals are probably safe to raise and eat, while genetically engineered ones may not be.
The distinction means that dozens of biotechnology companies attempting to create all sorts of transgenic animals are still years away from bringing their products to market.
The report was good news, however, for the companies that clone animals without tinkering with their genes.
At least two U.S. companies are cloning prized livestock that are the healthiest, fattest and fastest growing of their herds. By cloning the animals with the best genes, the companies aim to help beef, pork and egg producers trim costs and bolster profits.
The companies employ nuclear-transfer techniques, which replace the nucleus of an egg with that of an adult cell, such as a skin cell. The resulting offspring are the genetic replica of the adult cell donor. Unlike transgenic animals, no foreign DNA is introduced.
One goal of the companies is to harvest and sell the semen collected from the cloned animals, keeping prized livestock lines producing for generations.
"This will revolutionize the cattle industry," said Ron Gillespie of Cyagra Inc. of Worcester, Mass., which clones cows and pigs. Cyagra is a subsidiary of Advanced Cell Technology, which announced last year that it was attempting to clone a human embryo.
Still, cloning has met with protest from animal rights groups, who complain the new technology constitutes cruelty to animals because only a small percentage of cloning attempts lead to live births.
Some studies have shown that cloned animals suffer more than naturally bred animals from health problems such as arthritis and obesity. Also, biologists say there's another danger in the lack of genetic variety certain diseases could wipe out entire herds of genetic duplicates.
In addition, it costs a rancher about $20,000 for each clone, a prohibitive cost for all but a few of the most valuable show steers.
Mr. Gillespie also says he's fighting a public relations battle: His direct customers ranchers fear a backlash from consumers who view the technology in the same light as genetic engineering and human cloning.
"We're being painted with a broad brush," he said. He said he hopes the report will help sway public perception.
The FDA said it probably will allow cloned-animal cuisine on the market but with some oversight.
"We feel the cloned animals are going to be easy to deal with from a regulatory standpoint," said Stephen Sundlof, director of the FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicines.
But Mr. Sundlof said the FDA is leaning toward retaining some approval authority over the products, which include beef, pork, chicken, milk and eggs. For instance, the FDA probably will require companies to prove their cloned-derived products are identical to food from naturally bred animals, Mr. Sundlof said.
It is doubtful that any such products would be labeled as such. Food activists are putting most of their energy into trying to get the FDA to label genetically modified foods plants and animals as such.
"Certainly, a bit of a dark cloud hanging over our heads has been removed," said Mike Wanner, president of ProLinia Inc. The Athens, Ga.-based company is cloning cows and pigs in hopes of cracking the cattle and pork markets, which ring up combined sales of $35 billion a year.

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