Oh NO,  Meat/Milk:Cloned Animals?

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.

We're 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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