Update: The Washington Post reported today that Americans and others unknowingly may be eating meat from the offspring of clones. Executives from major cattle cloning companies conceded Wednesday that they don't know how many offspring of clones have entered the food supply, despite a longstanding FDA request to keep clone products off the market, pending completion of the agency's safety report.
One Kansas cattle producer said that he has openly sold semen from clones to many U.S. meat producers. Donald Coover, a Galesburg cattleman and veterinarian who has a specialty cattle semen business said it is a "fairy tale that this technology is not being used and is not already in the food chain. "Anyone who tells you otherwise either doesn't know what they're talking about, or they're not being honest," Coover said.
I find it difficult to accept that the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has decided meat and milk from clones of cattle, pigs and goats and their offspring are "as safe to eat as food from conventionally-bred animals." Further, the FDA, traditionally charged with insuring our food and prescription drugs are safe, has said there's "no need" for special labeling indicating the products are from cloned animals! Shades of Orwell's 1984! And what will this decision mean for America's farmers, already struggling not just to compete in the marketplace, but to survive?
The European Union will not allow any cloned products to be sold without labels identifying them as such. But if the FDA has its way, in American supermarkets shoppers will no longer know if they're buying products from animals or from clones. What has happened to the fair labeling rules that apply to foods, cosmetics, toiletries, cleaning products, as well as prescription and non-prescription drugs? Product ingredients and origin of production are required to clearly be identified to consumers. So why should products of cloned animals be exempt from the same health and safety standards?
The FDA announced their decision on January 15, despite Congressional mandates requiring further testing for safety of cloned products. Last month the Senate passed Farm Bill (H.R. 2419), containing a provision requiring the FDA delay its decision on cloned animals until additional studies can be completed by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). To date, only three studies have been conducted on the safety of cloned animals. Two of the studies were run by people who own patents on cloning.
Over 95 percent of cloning attempts fail, resulting in diseased and deformed animals. Obviously, long-term health effects of consuming the “successful” clones are unknown. Many consumer groups, including Farm Sanctuary, the Center for Food Safety, the Consumer Federation of America's Food Policy Institute, Food and Water Watch and The Humane Society have protested the FDA decision, urging further testing.
Some good news: The Agriculture Department said it will adhere to a 2001 voluntary moratorium on sales of cloned products until industry and consumer groups can agree on labeling and marketing restrictions. This means cloned products legally may not reach the U.S. market for years.