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FDA Says Clones Are Safe For Food

Cow clone
The Food and Drug Administration has concluded that milk and meat from cloned animals, such as these cows, should be allowed on the market. That stance has raised a debate over whether food from clones that are raised organically could still carry the organic label. (PRNewsFoto/ViaGen)

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But those problems typically disappear within the first weeks or months of life as the animals somehow compensate. And since sick clones would not pass muster with food inspectors any more than sick conventional animals would, they pose no concern, the report says.

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Studies of cloned farm animal behavior, including mating behavior, also showed them to be the same as ordinary animals. (One exception: On one farm, clones showed a peculiar preference not for the surrogate mother that gave birth to them but to the animal from which they were cloned.)

Scientists also looked at nutrient levels in meat and milk from a few dozen cattle and pig clones and hundreds of their progeny, and compared them with values from conventional animals. They measured vitamins A, C, B1, B2, B6 and B12 as well as niacin, pantothenic acid, calcium, iron, phosphorous, zinc, 12 kinds of fatty acids, cholesterol, fat, protein, amino acids and carbohydrates including lactose.

For almost every measure, the values were virtually the same. The few that differed were still within the range considered normal.

Separately, the agency looked at studies in which milk and meat from clones were fed to animals for up to 3 1/2 months. There was no evidence of health effects, allergic reactions or behavioral changes.

In the end, the agency concluded that it did not have enough information to rule on the safety of food from cloned sheep. It also decided that edible products from newborn cattle clones, which often are metabolically unstable, "may pose some very limited human food consumption risk."

But it found no safety hazards for meat from healthy cattle clones more than a few weeks old, milk from cloned cows, or meat from cloned pigs or goats of any age.

"Food from cattle, swine, and goat clones is as safe to eat as that from their more conventionally-bred counterparts," the FDA risk assessment concludes.

Looking ahead, the report says FDA is collaborating with veterinary and scientific organizations, notably the International Embryo Transfer Society, to create a database on the health of new clones, which will help the agency track the field as the industry grows.

Working with the FDA, the International Embryo Transfer Society is also creating the first manual of animal care standards for clones, to be made available to farmers and the public later this year.


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