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USDA Recommends That Food From Clones Stay Off the Market

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)

In recent weeks, as it became clear that the FDA was ready to release its positive safety report, officials there began encountering resistance from other agencies that would have to deal with the consequences of food from clones entering the U.S. food supply.

Some of them, including the USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, have been struggling for years to persuade countries in Europe and other parts of the world to accept gene-altered crops from the United States. The last thing those agencies needed, insiders said, was a new U.S. product that nobody wants.

The USDA's request that farmers keep their clones out of the food chain, probably for a few more years, "is simply allowing the time for an orderly transition to occur," Knight said, adding that the department is already having conversations with U.S. trading partners and trying to smooth the way to acceptance.

Some U.S. consumer groups have expressed concern for the cloned animals, which often have health problems, and have suggested that the American public may be as tough a sell as the wary consumers in the European Union and Japan.

"Despite the fact that cloned animals suffer high mortality rates and those who survive are often plagued with birth defects and diseases, the FDA did not give adequate consideration to the welfare of these animals or their surrogate mothers in its deliberations," said Wayne Pacelle, chief executive of the Humane Society of the United States.

Some U.S. groups have demanded that food from clones be labeled to give consumers the "right to choose."

But James Greenwood, president of the Biotechnology Industry Organization, whose members include the nation's biggest farm-animal cloning companies, rejected that idea, as has the FDA. He said cloning is simply a way to make offspring. Other methods of farm animal procreation, such as in vitro fertilization and artificial insemination, are not listed on food labels.

He and other industry representatives specifically rejected proposals to label food from conventionally conceived offspring of clones.

While the now-expired FDA moratorium sought to keep both clones and their offspring off the market, the new USDA moratorium requests only that clones themselves be withheld, so the offspring might make it to store shelves within a few years.

But imagine the labels that would appear if certain rules were in place, Greenwood said:

" 'This steak's father was a clone.' 'This steak's grandfather was a clone.' 'This steak's great-grandmother was a clone.'

"At what point does it become absurd?"

Staff researcher Madonna Lebling contributed to this report.


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