As of Thursday (Dec. 28) food from cloned animals and their offspring is deemed safe for humans to eat. That assessment follows more than five years of study by Food and Drug Administration scientists, who say that cloned livestock is "virtually indistinguishable" from their conventional counterparts.
FDA officials are not recommending special labels for products from cloned livestock, but a decision on labeling remains in the wings. The fact that there is no distinguishable difference between food from clones and food from other animals, "it would be unlikely that FDA would require labeling," says Stephen Sundlof, director of FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine.
Even though FDA has finalized its risk assessment on the matter, final approval for such products is still months away. A public comment period will run for the next three months.
Opponents to cloned animals are numerous, and are standing firm that the safety issue is not resolved. Some, including Carol Tucker Foreman, director of food policy at the Consumer Federation of America, argue that FDA is ignoring some research that shows cloning results in deformed animals and higher death rates than other reproductive technologies. She plans to ask food companies and supermarkets to refuse to sell food from clones, according to Forbes.com.
"The bottom line is, we don't want to misinform consumers with some sort of implied message of difference," says Barb Glenn, with the Biotechnology Industry Organization. "There is no difference. These foods are as safe as foods from animals that are raised conventionally."
The reality of the issue is that cloning would be used for seedstock purposes. It would not be a method to produce animals for the marketplace; in reality it's the offspring from cloned animals that would be marketed.
Much of the public perceives that cloning is genetic engineering. "No genes have been changed, moved or deleted in the process,: says Glenn. "It's simply a genetic twin."
As Forbes.com reports: To produce a clone, the nucleus of a donor egg is removed and replaced with
the DNA of a cow, pig or other animal. A small electric shock coaxes the egg o grow into a copy of the original animal. Cloning companies say it's simply another reproductive technology, such as artificial insemination. The cloned animal can differ from the original because of chance and environmental influences.
Source: Forbes.com magazine, The Integer Group