The Food and Drug Administration is expected to come out with its risk assessment on meat and milk from offspring of cloned animals. The FDA’s consensus is that the products are safe for human consumption, undistinguishable from non-cloned products and do not require special labeling.

It is expected that FDA will follow the study’s publication with an approval for cloning technology involving cattle, goats and pigs. The general take on cloning is that it’s a reproductive tool, no different than artificial insemination.

"All of the studies indicate that the composition of meat and milk from clones is within the compositional ranges of meat and milk consumed in the United States," cites the study, which is set for the Jan. 1 issue of Theriogenology, an animal-reproduction journal.

Of course, even if FDA comes out with a safety endorsement, the process will continue to evolve. It certainly will trigger more public dialogue about cloning and its role and impact on food production. In other words, the risk-assessment report won’t open the flood gates on cloned animals as a food-production option. First off, cloned animals will be too expensive for the mass market. Instead, they would serve breeding companies and provide parent stock for commercial production.

But while science is on pace to endorse animal cloning as safe, consumers may have a different notion. A Pew Initiative study released revealed that 64 percent of Americans are uncomfortable with animal cloning, and that 43 percent believe clone-produced food is unsafe.

Other studies by various groups confirm the Pew findings. In general, the public is confused, uneducated and misinformed about what cloning actually involves. Naturally, that does not make for a very smooth road to acceptance.  

Indeed, FDA’s risk assessment will only ignite a long and drawn out debate and education process for the American public, not to mention countries that import U.S. products. It will be a long road to reach any type of conclusions on product labeling and consumer acceptance.