Azara Blog: FDA approves production of food derived from cloned animals

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Date published: 2008/01/15

The BBC says:

The US government has given the green light to the production and marketing of foods derived from cloned animals.

After six years of study, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ruled that meat and milk from cloned pigs, cattle and goats and their offspring is safe.

Lack of data meant the agency could not reach a decision on sheep products.

The FDA does not expect to see a lot of products from cloned animals being sold now, because of cost. It expects clones would first be used for breeding.

The agency released almost identical draft conclusions in December 2006. Since then, new scientific information has strengthened its central view.

"After reviewing additional data and the public comments in the intervening year since the release of our draft documents on cloning, we conclude that meat and milk from cattle, swine, and goat clones are as safe as the food we eat every day," said Stephen Sundlof, director of the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.

The FDA will not require food derived from cloned animals to be labelled as such.

The agency was criticised by activist groups and by US politicians who were not convinced that enough scientific data was available to justify a decision.

"The FDA has acted recklessly, and I am profoundly disappointed in their rush to approve cloned foods," said Maryland Senator Barbara Mikulski, co-sponsor of a bill amendment passed by the US Senate which asked the FDA not to rule until further research was available.

"Just because something was created in a lab, doesn't mean we should have to eat it."
US authorities do not expect to see a wave of products derived from cloned animals on the shelves immediately.

Creating a clone is far more expensive than breeding animals conventionally. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) believes it is more likely that companies will produce clones with "desirable" traits, breed them, and bring products from the offspring into the food chain.

The USDA is asking companies not to market products immediately, but to continue observing the moratorium they agreed to in 2001 when the FDA began its deliberations.

"USDA encourages the cloning industry continue its voluntary moratorium for a sufficient period of time to prepare so that a smooth and seamless transition into the marketplace can occur," it said in a statement.

The US developments will be watched closely in Europe, where evaulation of cloned animals is at an earlier stage.

Last week the European Food Safety Authority (Efsa) initiated a public consultation on its draft guidance.

The draft concluded, among other things, that:

The EU has indicated that if products from cloned animals were approved, they would have to be labelled.

This contrasts directly with the US position, opening up the possibility of trade disputes similar to the lengthy and costly row between the EU and US over genetically modified foods.

The EU approach on labelling makes more sense. And the FDA approach is no doubt biased by the views of the current US administration, so their approach might change when the next president takes over. Perhaps more research should be done evaluating this new technology, but you can guarantee your last dollar that the usual suspects (including the so-called environmentalists and the so-called organic food lobby) will oppose this technology no matter what the science shows. They will find some torturous example where the new technology is not quite as good in some way as the old technology. But ultimately, consumers should decide, not the usual academic middle class anti-technology control freaks. Mind you, these people successfully demonised GM food in Europe with their hysterical press releases, and that is bound to happen all over again. Come back in 100 years when everyone will wonder what the fuss was all about.

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