September 2, 2008

Cloned Meat and Milk May Already Exist In Food Supply

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said on Monday that food products from cloned animals may have already become a part of the U.S. food supply.

With an estimated 600 cloned animals currently grazing across the U.S., FDA spokeswoman Siobhan DeLancey acknowledged "it is theoretically possible" that food products from cloned animals have already become a part of the nation's food supply.

"I don't know whether they are or not. I could imagine there are not very many of them," DeLancey added.

In January, the agency reported that meat and milk from cloned animals were just as safe for consumption as products from traditional animals.

Soon after the FDA announced the allowance of cloning animals to enter the food supply, USDA asked for the cloning industry to prolong the ban on selling products from cloned animals during a "transition" period expected to last at least several months. That ban would not extend to meat and milk from the clone's offspring.

Some companies within the industry, such as Tyson Foods Inc, the largest U.S. meat company, and Smithfield Foods Inc say they won't use cloned animals due to safety concerns.

Backers of the cloned animal movement, including the Biotechnology Industry Organization, claim that cloning is a safe and productive way to increase food supply. What's more, they add, the food obtained from these cloned animals is better and more disease-resistant than meat from their traditional counterparts.

Cloning animals involves taking the nuclei of cells from adults and fusing them into egg cells that are implanted into a surrogate mother.

"There is no way to differentiate" between cloned animals, their offspring and conventionally bred animals, making it difficult to know if they are in the food supply, according to U.S. Agriculture Department spokesman Keith Williams.

Some critics still remain skeptical, adding that the FDA needs to address concerns over animal cruelty and ethical issues.

"It worries me that this technology is out of control in so many ways," said Charles Margulis, a spokesman with the Center for Environmental Health. The possibility of offspring being in the food supply "is just another element of that," he said.


On the Net: