Clones’ Offspring May Be in Food Supply (Reuters)

Christopher Doering, Reuters, September 2, 2008

Food and milk from the offspring of cloned animals may already have entered the
U.S. food supply, the Food and Drug
Administration said on Monday, but it would be impossible to know because there
is no difference between cloned and conventional
products.

The FDA said in January meat and
milk from cloned cattle, swine and goats and their offspring were as safe to eat
as products obtained from traditional animals. Before then, farmers and ranchers
had followed a voluntary moratorium that prevented the sale of clones and their
offspring.

"It is theoretically possible"
offspring from clones are in the food supply, said Siobhan DeLancey, an FDA
spokeswoman. "I don't know whether they are or not. I could imagine there are
not very many of them."

Proponents, including the
Biotechnology Industry Organization, say cloned animals are safe and a way to
create animals that produce more milk and better meat and are more
disease-resistant. There are currently an estimated 600 cloned animals in the
United
States.

The small cloning industry and the
FDA have maintained cloned animals and their offspring are as safe as their
regular counterparts. Cloning animals involves taking the nuclei of cells from
adults and fusing them into egg cells that are implanted into a surrogate
mother.

U.S. Agriculture Department
spokesman Keith Williams said "there is no way to differentiate" between cloned
animals, their offspring and conventionally bred animals, making it difficult to
know if they are in the food supply.

Even as the FDA unveiled its final
rule, USDA asked in January for the cloning industry to prolong the ban on
selling products from cloned animals during a "transition" period expected to
last at least several months. That ban would not extend to meat and milk from
the clone's offspring.

Critics still contend not enough is
known about the technology to ensure it is safe, and they also say the FDA needs
to address concerns over animal cruelty and ethical
issues.

"It worries me that this technology
is out of control in so many ways," said Charles Margulis, a spokesman with the
Center for Environmental Health. The possibility of offspring being in the food
supply "is just another element of that," he said.

Despite the backing from FDA, major
food companies including Tyson Foods Inc, the largest U.S. meat
company, and Smithfield Foods Inc have said they would avoid using cloned
animals because of safety concerns.

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