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Closer and Closer to the Cloned Food

January 15, 2008

CNN: Meat and milk from most cloned animals are safe to eat, the Food and Drug Administration announced Tuesday.

According to a 968-page “final risk assessment,” the FDA finds no safety risks in meat from healthy cloned cows, pigs or goats or milk from cloned cows and their offspring.

“Food products derived from cattle, swine, and goat clones pose no more risk than food derived from sexually reproduced animals,” the report said.

However, in the end, the FDA decided it needed more information to determine the safety of meat and milk from cloned sheep. The FDA also decided food from newborn cattle clones, “may pose some very limited human food consumption risk.”

The agency reportedly included hundreds of pages of raw data in the risk assessment, to help the public understand how it came to its findings.

For years, a heated debate over the use of cloned animals for food production has stretched from Congress to cattle farms. The agency reached a preliminary decision in December 2006, after a four-year review, that milk and meat from cloned animals was safe for human consumption. Under government policy, the agency was required to collect more safety data before issuing a final decision.

It is highly unlikely actual clones will be used in food production. A cloned cow costs $15,000 to $20,000 to create. More likely, experts said, the offspring of cloned animals will be used. Experts also say it will be three to five years before consumers see milk and meat from their offspring.

Opponents of using cloned animals in food production are angry that the FDA is releasing its report now.

“We think the FDA should pay attention to what Congress is asking them to do,” say J.D. Hanson, policy analyst for the Center for Food Safety. “It looks like they are releasing it to sidestep what Congress has asked them to do.”

Another concern is economics. “People will start consuming less dairy and meat” out of uncertainty, suggested Michael Hansen, a senior scientist with Consumers Union. His group calls for more study and clear labeling.

Last month, the Senate passed a measure that would bar the FDA from approving the proposal until it conducts further study of the potential health effects. The legislation also would require the Agriculture Department to examine consumer acceptance of cloned meats. The amendment was part of the Senate’s $286 billion farm bill, which was passed in December.

Other consumer groups are satisfied with the findings. “There are still unanswered questions about the use of cloned animals in the food supply, but the Food and Drug Administration has satisfactorily answered the safety question,” the Center for Science in the Public Interest said in a statement. “While the safety of any food cannot be proven with absolute certainty, consumers should have confidence that meat and milk from cloned animals and their offspring will be safe.”

More stories and videos on cloning here…

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