January 25, 2008

FDA Downplays Long-term Impact of Animal Cloning

Approximately 600 animals have been cloned in the United States. However, they have most likely not entered the food supply according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Last week the FDA stated that meat and milk from cloned animals and their offspring were just as safe to eat as products obtained from traditional animals. Prior to this statement farmers had a standstill that prevented clones from being sold.

The FDA's Stephen Sundlof claims that there is no predilection that this will ever become a way to mass produce animals. The FDA continues to downplay the long-term impact of cloning. Sundlof pointed out that another more common reproductive technique, in vitro fertilization, has only been used to produce very small numbers of animals on farms in the U.S.

It could be several years before consumers can buy clone-derived food at their local supermarket on a wide scale. It takes this long for animals to be cloned, mature and give birth. Sundlof claims, "At this point in time we don't believe there are offspring out there in the nation's food supply system. We are not really concerned with tracking progeny because they are in every respect a normal animal."

However, some of the major food companies are concerned with this possibility. Tyson Foods Inc. as well as Smithfield Foods Inc. have already claimed that they would avoid using cloned animals in their food products.

The Department of Agriculture has asked the cloning industry to lengthen the ban on selling cloned products during a "transition" period which will last several months, despite the FDA's final rule.

Two democratic lawmakers, Representative Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut and Senator Barbara Mikulski of Maryland have already proposed laws which would require a warning label on products from cloned animals or their offspring. With a law like this in place, products would be allowed into the market, but consumers would have a fair chance to avoid the products if they wanted.

Some people who agree with the practice hope that the technology will create more disease-resistant meat and produce, as well as larger quantities of milk.

Critics believe that the FDA is not addressing everything it should; they have concerns with animal cruelty and ethics that still need to be discussed. Many also are not satisfied with the FDA claiming the meat and produce from these animals is safe, and desire more research and information on the technology used.


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