FDA Clears Cloned Foods; No Health Risk in Meat or Milk
Byline: Gregory Lopes, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
The Food and Drug Administration said yesterday that meat and milk from cloned animals is safe, opening the door for pork chops and milk from clones to be sold on grocery shelves late next year.
A risk assessment released yesterday by the FDA shows that there is no public health risk from eating cloned foods. If that report withstands the federal regulatory process, Americans could become the first people in the world to serve bacon and hamburgers from cloned animals.
Federal officials would not say when sales of the cloned-animal products - from cows, pigs and goats - could become a reality, but "it is conceivable" that late next year a moratorium banning cloned-animal products could be lifted.
"It is almost inconceivable with what we know that this technology will introduce hazards to public health," said Stephen Sundlof, director of the Center for Veterinary Medicine at FDA. "We have looked for hazards, and they just are not there."
The FDA's research focused solely on cloned animals and did not include studies on how humans reacted to eating foods from genetically engineered animals, Dr. Sundlof said.
Because of unknown health risks associated with cloning, the FDA put a voluntary moratorium on the sale of meat and milk from cloned animals in 2001.
Cloning lets farmers and ranchers make copies of exceptional animals, such as pigs that fatten rapidly or cows that are superior milk producers.
Cloning currently is not practiced specifically to produce food; rather, farmers generally use cloned cows or pigs to breed.
"It remains to be seen whether dairy farmers will choose to use [cloning technology]. There is currently no consumer benefits in milk from cloned cows," the International Dairy Foods Association said yesterday.
The FDA does not keep a registry of how many cloned animals there are in the country, but industry officials estimate there could be as many as 600 cloned cows in the United States and 200 pigs. The cost of cloning an animal is steep, about $20,000 each to produce.
The likelihood of cloned meat and dairy products entering the food supply will remain slight in the short term even if the moratorium is lifted. Because of the high cost of the technology, cloned animals are primarily used for breeding, not for food, Dr. Sundlof said. Therefore, consumers would mostly get food from their offspring and not the clones themselves.
Cloned animals are derived from the healthiest animals in the herd and therefore are more disease-resistant and offer leaner meat than conventionally produced animals, Dr. …