Over the past decade, meat-eaters have had to face issues ranging from hormones and antibiotics to E. coli and mad cow disease. Now a new concern is about to land smack-dab in the middle of their dinner plates, right between their mashed potatoes and peas.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, FDA, has said it may start allowing producers to use cloning to breed genetically superior cows, pigs and goats for food by the end of the year.
In December 2006, the FDA released a draft risk assessment based on hundreds of domestic and international peer-reviewed studies stating that food derived from clones and their offspring is indistinguishable from that of conventionally reproduced animals.
But concerns remain. Senators Barbara Mikulski of Maryland and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania introduced an amendment to the farm bill to require labeling of products from clones. The amendment was approved in the Senate version of the bill, by not by the House. A conference committee will meet shortly to harmonize the two versions of the bill, and the fate of the cloning amendment will be decided there.
“Just because something has been created in a lab, doesn’t mean we should have to eat it,” said Senator Mikulski. “If we discover a problem with cloned food after it is in our food supply and it’s not labeled, the FDA won’t be able to recall it like they did Vioxx – the food will already be tainted.”
The FDA says labels are not needed because the meat and milk pose no special risks
The two largest cloning companies in the United States, Trans Ova Genetics of Sioux Center, Iowa and ViaGen Inc. of Austin, Texas said Wednesday that they will keep a registry of all their animals that will allow food companies to identify cloned animals when they move into the food processing chain but admit that the registry would not track conventionally bred animals that are the offspring of clones. This announcement of the new supply chain management system is in response to concerns from lawmakers, the food industry and consumers who are uneasy about eating cloned animals.
The program works through use of a national registry, affidavits and incentives.
“There is no argument about the safety of these products and the extremely limited number of clones makes it unlikely anyone will eat food from a cloned animal,” said Mark Walton, president of cloning company ViaGen Inc. “However, we wanted to accommodate those industry segments who may wish to market only traditional products.”
“Cloned animals have been extensively studied and found to be safe,” said David Faber, president of cloning company Trans Ova Genetics. “However, we are happy to assist the supply chain as it gains further confidence in the benefits that this exciting process can provide to farmers, processors and consumers.”
They may be considered safe to eat, but meat and milk products from cloned animals and their offspring are unlikely to be marketed as organic.
The National Organic Standards Board, an expert advisory panel to the U.S. Agriculture Department’s National Organic Program, has made it clear that organic agriculture should not allow the use of cloned animals or their offspring in the production of organic food. The board voted in April to exclude cloned animals, their offspring, and any food products from cloned animals from the organic sector.