Cloned food on the way with no labeling

January 7, 2008

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a preliminary safety assessment that clears the way for marketing of meat and dairy products from cloned animals for human consumption. The assessment and the agency’s endorsement of cloned food comes despite widespread concern among scientists and food safety advocates over the safety of such products. The move to market cloned milk and meat also flies in the face of dairy and food industry concern and recent consumer opinion polls showing that most Americans do not want these experimental foods. What’s worse, FDA indicates that it will not require labeling on cloned food, so consumers will have no way to avoid these experimental foods.

Recent opinion polls also show that Americans are overwhelmingly concerned about animal cloning for food production. A November 2006 food industry poll conducted by the International Food Information Council showed that 58% of Americans surveyed would be unlikely to buy meat or milk from animal clones even if FDA found such products to be safe. In the same poll, only 16% of Americans had a favorable opinion of animal cloning. A December 2006 poll by the Pew Initiative found that 64% of those polled were uncomfortable with animal cloning, with 43% saying that cloned food is unsafe, while another 36% felt unsure about cloned food safety.

Cloning scientists have acknowledged that genetic abnormalities are common in clones, yet FDA failed to address how food safety and animal welfare concerns could be managed if cloning is widely adopted by the livestock industry. Some of the health and safety problems in animal cloning include:

Surrogate mothers are treated with high doses of hormones; clones are often born with severely compromised immune systems and frequently receive massive doses of antibiotics. This opens an avenue for large amounts of veterinary pharmaceuticals to enter the human food supply;

Imbalances in clones’ hormone, protein, and/or fat levels could compromise the quality and safety of meat and milk;

The National Academy of Sciences warned that commercialization of cloned livestock for food production could increase the incidence of food-borne illnesses, such as E. coli infections;

Cloning commonly results in high failure rates and defects such as intestinal blockages; diabetes; shortened tendons; deformed feet; weakened immune systems; dysfunctional hearts, brains, livers, and kidneys; respiratory distress; and circulatory problems.

In October, the Center for Food Safety joined by a coalition of consumer, environmental and animal welfare organizations, filed a legal petition with the FDA seeking a moratorium on foods produced from cloned animals and establishment of mandatory rules for pre-market food safety and environmental review of cloned foods. The petition also requested that the Department of Health and Human Services establish a federal review committee to advise FDA on the ethical issues raised by animal cloning.

“We intend to pursue our legal action to compel FDA to address the many unanswered questions around cloned food,” said Joseph Mendelson, Legal Director for CFS.

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) Leahy and Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) — who has expressed reservations about food from clones — encouraged Americans to send their opinions to the FDA.

Public comments on the draft risk assessment, proposed risk management plan, and draft guidance for industry are being accepted until May 3, 2007 . Visit www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/oc/dockets/comments/commentdocket.cfm?AGENCY=FDA, and search for docket number 2003N-0573 to submit comments online. Comments also may be sent to: Division of Dockets Management (HFA-305), Food and Drug Administration, 5630 Fishers Lane, Room 1061, Rockville, MD 20852. Comments should include the docket number 2003N-0573.

For more information on the subject of clonging, go to: www.centerforfoodsafety.org/cloned_animals.cfm, www.fda.gov/cvm/CloneRiskAssessment.htm

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