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Food Fight - Clones Are In, Consumers Won’t Know

Posted by Jane Akre
Tuesday, January 15, 2008 11:29 PM EST
Category: Major Medical, Protecting Your Family
Tags: FDA and Prescription Drugs, Medical Devices, Toxic Substances, Defective and Dangerous Products


Meatand Milk from Clones could be coming to a store near you and the FDA says labeling is not required


In a major concession to the growing biotechnology industry, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has given the green light to the production of meat and milk from cloned cows, pigs and goats.

Interestingly the FDA says it does not have enough information to okay meat from sheep since Dolly, a sheep, was the first cloned animal in 1997.  

The agency concluded that meat and milk from cloned animals are as safe to eat as traditionally bred animals therefore consumers won’t need labels to help them distinguish what they are eating.

"The data show that healthy adult clones are virtually indistinguishable" from their counterparts, concludes FDA's 900-plus page safety report.

The decision clears the way to bring products to market which could mean a windfall for biotech companies Trans Ova Genetics and ViaGen Inc. which have produced 600 cloned cows.

We certainly are pleased," Trans Ova President David Faber, told CBS News. He noted that previous reports by the National Academy of Sciences and others have reached the same conclusion.

Not exactly.

The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) has actually not confirmed the safety of genetically engineered or cloned animals. A 2002 NAS report said the altered animals might pose an irreversible environmental risk that the regulatory structure is not equipped to handle.

Observations among cloned animals show numerous problems in a 2002 NAS report including large babies that often die from complications at birth or kill the mother because of their size, placental, lung, kidney and cardiovascular problems, brain, liver, joint and immune dysfunction.

It could be a number of years before meat and milk from cloned animals makes it to your store shelves, meantime a voluntary moratorium is being requested by the government.

USDA Undersecretary Bruce Knight says this will allow the marketplace to adjust, while consumers come to accept the notion of consuming meat and milk from cloned animals and a lack of labels to make a choice. 

And if recent history is any indication, cloned meat and milk will not be an easy one to swallow.

The FDA has suffered a tarnished reputation for its approval of a long line of a questionable products. Overseas, Europe has shunned products of American agribusiness and technology such as hormones used in U.S. meat production, genetically engineered soy and corn and the dairy hormone rBGH.

The hurdle American consumers pose could be insurmountable. 

For Monsanto, maker of synthetic bovine growth hormone, sales have declined dramatically as dairy coops in California and Florida along with major grocery chains, Public, Safeway and Kroger, are refusing to buy milk from hormone treated cows, at least in part because of consumer concerns.

Then the is the labeling issue - A survey commissioned by the USDA finds that 89 percent of the American public feel their food should be labeled for genetically engineered ingredients. Consumer advocates don’t see the issue of cloned food as being any different.

“People are already concerned about animal products but when they realize they’re eating cloned animals they’re going to go vegetarian,” Craig Winter of The Campaign to Label Genetically Engineered Foods tells IB News.  

In response to consumer anxiety, the FDA says cloning is not the same as genetic engineering which involves altering, adding, or deleting DNA. Cloning is a genetic copy of a donor animal similar to an identical twin, according to the FDA

But Dean Foods and Hormel Foods have no desire to fight consumer anxiety and no plans to begin producing meat and milk using cloned animals.

“Retailers like McDonalds might find themselves the target of consumer protests if they buy cloned meat from Smithfield,” Jaydee Hanson tells IB News. He’s a  policy analyst at The Center for Food Safety, a Washington D.C. based food safety group.

Hanson says the FDA issued its risk assessment in December that outlined the industry sponsored studies it relied on to make the decision.

“They’ve done really a poor draft assessment. When you look at it there are no peer reviewed studies on the meat or milk from cloned cows, pigs or goats.  Three veterinary scientists looked at data collected, but the problem is two of the three have worked for companies that have patents relating to animal cloning,” Hanson tells IB News.

How does cloning work?  ViaGen takes the place of the farmer breeder who sends a cow hide to ViaGen which extracts the nucleus from one of the cells. They then insert the nucleus into a cow egg where the yoke has been removed, and fuse it in with the help of chemicals or electricity. ViaGen then implants the egg into one of its cows with the help of hormones and antibiotics so the egg is not rejected.  

Most are rejected. Many mothers die. That’s one of the reasons one cow costs $10,000 to $20,000.

The FDA says these clones will be “used as elite breeding animals to introduce desirable traits into herds more rapidly than would be possible using conventional breeding.”

In other words, Flossie and Bossie that come from a cloned mother will be reproduced by normal breeding. 

The Center for Food Safety has filed a petition for the FDA to regulate cloned animals as it would an animal drug. 

A Senate version of the proposed farm bill contains an amendment from Senator Barbara Mikulski (D- Md.) that mandates the FDA wait for the results of more studies before releasing a final approval on the safety of cloned foods.

“The FDA has acted recklessly," said Sen. Mikulski who sponsored that legislation.

"Just because something was created in a lab, doesn't mean we should have to eat it. 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 Senator told CBS News.

"Once the FDA says these products are safe and that they are out there, it's very hard to turn it back," says Joe Mendelson, legal director of the Center for Food Safety.

“There simply has not been enough study” he says.   

Even though it might take another decade before cloned meat and milk are marketed, the last phase of a clinical trial will likely be conducted on a consumer’s dinner plate.   #



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