Cloned food gets closer to market
By Elizabeth Weise, USA TODAY
The arrival of meat or milk from cloned animals in America's grocery
stores takes a giant step forward today with the release of a Food and
Drug Administration report that says cloned animals pose no greater risk
to human health than normally bred animals.
It is the first time that a regulatory body has said that such animals
are safe to eat and greatly increases the likelihood that the FDA will
lift its voluntary ban on the sale of meat, milk and food products made
from cloned animals.
In 2002, the FDA asked companies engaged in the
cloning of agricultural animals to voluntarily refrain from selling them
for human consumption.
The executive summary of the report is to be presented Tuesday to the
FDA's veterinary medicine advisory committee, which will evaluate it and
eventually consider whether the agency's voluntary restrictions should
be lifted. The FDA has not said when the full 300-page report will be
released to the committee.
Industry experts say the sale of products made from cloned animals is
only the first piece of a much larger picture - the sale of "transgenic"
animals. Companies around the globe are already working to genetically
modify animals to produce drugs and all manner of chemicals. And they
anticipate a day when animals might be engineered to produce
extra-tender meat, milk naturally low in lactic acid or eggs that
protect against heart disease.
"This sets a basis for the next level, which is transgenics," says Lisa
Dry of the Biotechnology Industry Organization. "You've got to cross
this threshold before you can go there."
But Greg Jaffe, biotechnology coordinator with the Center for Science in
the Public Interest, says the food-safety evidence is in short supply.
The FDA risk assessment makes numerous assumptions that the public might
not make, he says. The first is that a healthy animal is likely to
produce safe food products, so if a cloned animal is healthy, foods made
from it will be healthy.
"The analysis says that if a clone gets as far as the slaughterhouse, it
has to be healthy. And if it's healthy, then it's probably not harmful,
but they don't have the data to back it up," Jaffe says.
The FDA risk assessment also looks at the moral and ethical issues
raised by animal cloning. Clones are subject to many pathological
problems, including hypertension, kidney abnormalities, liver problems,
limb and body wall defects, and abnormally large babies.
However, the risk assessment finds that the health problems aren't that
much different from those seen from artificial reproduction technologies
commonly used on farms.
Even if the FDA lifts its ban, whether a market will exist is another
matter. The most important issue for the nation's grocers is that
consumers are convinced and assured that the food supply is safe, says
Stephanie Childs of the Grocery Manufacturers of America.
It's important to remember that few clones will be sold as food, says
Janet Riley of the American Meat Institute. "It's an exact twin.
copying an animal that has optimal characteristics, such as flavor or
tenderness, and using it for breeding stock so that its offspring will
have those characteristics."
10/03 USA Today
Thanks to thecampaign.org
Ann's NOTE: I remember that Dolly, the first cloned animal, was said to have died of 'old age' while still quite young. Do we really understand ALL the implications of this concept? Doubtful.
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