- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration yesterday ignored protests from consumer groups and lawmakers by declaring that meat and milk from cloned animals is as safe to eat as the natural product.

The announcement came in a report that took seven years to complete. During that time, sales of cloned meat were banned by a voluntary moratorium.

That moratorium will remain in place until the report is reviewed by the Agriculture Department, the FDA said yesterday.

“We conclude that meat and milk from cattle, swine, and goat clones are as safe as food we eat every day,” said Dr. Stephen Sundlof, director of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.

The FDA does not expect to see many products from cloned animals being sold in the coming years because they cost so much to produce.

Cloned animals can cost between $10,000 and $20,000 each, meaning that meat producers likely will use a clone’s offspring, not the clone itself, for food, the agency said.

Two cloning companies — Viagen Inc. of Austin, Texas, and Trans Ova Genetics of Sioux Center, Iowa — already have produced more than 600 cloned animals, mostly cattle.

Food producers including Tyson Foods Inc. of Springfield, Ark., the largest U.S. meat processor, and Dean Foods Co. of Horsham, Pa., the biggest dairy distributor, said they won’t use cloned products because of consumer anxiety about the cloning process.

The FDA and U.S. Department of Commerce disagree over whether the U.S. should lift the moratorium on cloned food products, largely because of concerns expressed by U.S. trading partners.

Consumer advocates such as the Center for Food Safety and the Consumers Union have petitioned the FDA to ban the sale of cloned products. Consumer groups are pushing Congress to pass the 2007 farm bill, which contains an amendment that would overrule the FDA and delay the introduction of cloned animals into the food supply.

“There’s no way for the consumer to know whether they’re getting cloned meat or their offspring,” said Will Rostov, a senior attorney at the Center for Food Safety, an agricultural advocacy group in the District.

The FDA decided not to require food from cloned animals to be labeled as such. Last month, meat and dairy producers announced an industry system to track cloned livestock with an electronic identification tag on each animal sold.

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