California wants labels on cloned food, how about the rest of us?

January 27, 2008

California wants to protect its consumers from the possible unknown risks of consuming food from cloned animals and their offspring by proposing a bill requiring such products to display clear and prominent labels.

The bill was brought forward by California State Senator Carol Migden after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) made its controversial announcement this month saying milk and meat from cloned animals are safe for sale to the public.

“The federal agency charged with protecting our food supply has failed us,” said Rebecca Spector, West Coast Director of the Center for Food Safety.

“Consumers have the right to know that the meat and milk they feed their children is safe. Since FDA refuses to wait for science to show what’s really happening with cloned animals, it is now up to individual states to protect consumers and their families. The Senator’s labeling bill will protect Californians through labeling, which restores consumer confidence and choice.”

The issue has been a contentious one since the draft risk assessment, published in December 2006, raised a number of questions and elicited a strong response from opposing parties and some consumers during the comment period.

An aspect of FDA’s plan that has invited significant opposition is that the labeling of meat and milk products from cloned animals would not be required. This, opponents say, would deprive consumers of the choice to opt for products not linked to the technology.

There has also been criticism from other safety administrations. Last year, the Center for Food Safety issued a report critical of the FDA’s risk assessment on animal clones, saying it relied almost entirely on unsupported assumptions and was based more on faith than science.

A 2007 national survey conducted by Consumers Union found that 89 percent of Americans want to see cloned foods labeled. Sixty-nine percent said that they have concerns about cloned meat and dairy products in the food supply.

Elisa Odabashian, director of Consumers Union’s West Coast office, said: “Senator Migden’s labeling bill will be a critical step in providing consumers with the information they are demanding about these foods.”

Last year Senator Migden authored a similar bill (SB 63) that was passed by the entire California legislature before being vetoed by Governor Schwarzenegger. He said he could not sign the bill as it is pre-empted by federal law, which governs labeling on a national level.

“It is our hope that the legislature will stand behind this bill. Its passage is needed now more than ever since the FDA has cleared the way for food from cloned animals to enter the market unlabeled,” said Odabashian.

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