|Cloned Animals in Food Supply a Bad Step, Groups
They Contend Profits, Not Public Health, Behind the FDA's Preliminary Recommendation
By Jody Brown
(AgapePress) - A Colorado-based political party says it is "disgraceful" that the FDA appears to be willing to risk the public's health by giving preliminary approval last week for meat and milk from cloned animals to appear on supermarket shelves in the foreseeable future.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced on Thursday, in a draft risk assessment, that meat and milk from clones of adult cattle, pigs, and goats, and their offspring, "are as safe to eat as food from conventionally bred animals." The agency found that cloned livestock are "virtually indistinguishable" from animals conceived the natural way, and can be safely ingested. Because of the limited data available, the federal agency is recommending that sheep clones not be used for human food.
The FDA also announced that no special labeling is likely to be required for such food products; and that it has requested that farmers and "cloners" voluntarily keep cloned animals out of the food supply, allowing only the offspring of clones into distribution. That voluntary ban is expected to stay in place for at least a few months.
SmartRemarx.com notes that consumer groups are critical of the lack of clear labeling, some arguing that consumers deserve to know what they are purchasing. And a spokesman for the Center for Food Safety (CFS) in Washington, DC, claims the FDA "fast-tracked" the decision "for the benefit of a few cloning companies," the result being a "lose-lose situation" for consumers and the dairy industry. And besides, argues the CFS, consumer opinion polls show that most Americans do not want "experimental" foods. The group cites a December 2006 poll by the Pew Initiative that 43 percent of those polled say that cloned food is unsafe, while another 36 percent felt unsure about cloned food safety.
The America First Party (AFP), based in Boulder, Colorado, says it is "appalled" by the FDA's announcement last week. The group -- which claims it is "fighting for faith, freedom, and the Constitution to put America first" -- contends the "biological integrity" of some species of livestock could be jeopardized if the federal government goes forward with its decision.
Jon Hill, national chairman for the AFP, questions the ethics of cloning in general as well as the fact that this appears to a business-based decision.
"It is our duty to respect the image of creation that the Creator has given to nature, and to not unnecessarily deform this image in order to merely provide economic opportunities to people involved in the field of genetics," states Hill in a press release. "To propose risking damage to God's intricate and awesome creation to maximize profits is disgraceful."
The Party's press secretary, John Schweingrouber, wonders why a cloned source of food supply is even needed.
"U.S. agriculture is renowned for its productivity and success," he notes. "We don't need the FDA and incomplete science to fix what isn't broken." The entire issue, he contends, has nothing to do with necessity. "This is all about maximizing profit," Schweingrouber charges.
An animal clone, according to the FDA, is a genetic copy of a donor animal that is similar to identical twins born at different times. The process, says the agency, differs from genetic engineering and does not change the gene sequence. Associated Press reports that the cloning industry says the technology is the latest in a series of "reproductive tools" that farmers and ranchers can use to deliver the food that consumers want. But a spokeswoman for the International Dairy Foods Association offers a cautionary note.
"You hear a lot from the technology companies this week that this is a great technology," Susan Rowland tells Associated Press. "[But] we're not hearing that yet from the people who would actually use it and the people who would sell the product."
It also remains to be seen what will be heard from consumers if products from cloned animals ever make it into the food supply. AP reports that industry research shows overall sales could drop 15 percent if that is allowed to happen.
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