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Monday, 28 January 2008

Green light for cloned meat in USA

F.D.A. Says Food From Cloned Animals Is Safe

Thomas Terry/Associated Press
January 16, 2008

After years of debate, the Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday declared that food from cloned animals and their progeny is safe to eat, clearing the way for milk and meat derived from genetic copies of prized dairy cows, steers and hogs to be sold at the grocery store.

The decision was hailed by cloning companies and some farmers, who have been pushing for government approval in hopes of turning cloning into a routine agricultural tool. Because clones are costly, it is their offspring that are most likely to be used for producing milk, hamburgers or pork chops, while the clones themselves are reserved for breeding.

“This is a huge milestone,” said Mark Walton, president of ViaGen, a leading livestock cloning company in Austin, Tex.

Farmers had long observed a voluntary moratorium on the sale of clones and their offspring into the food supply. The F.D.A. on Tuesday effectively lifted that for clone offspring. But another government agency, the Agriculture Department, asked farmers to continue withholding clones themselves from the food supply, saying the department wanted time to allay concerns among retailers and overseas trading partners.

Animal breeding takes time, so even with Tuesday’s actions, it is likely to be several years before products from the offspring of clones are at the grocery store in appreciable quantity.

While acknowledging that consumer acceptance remains a hurdle, proponents of cloning technology say it could have a major impact on the livestock industry by providing meat and milk that is better and more consistent.

Consumer groups immediately lambasted the F.D.A.’s report, saying that the science remains inadequate and that many consumers oppose cloning for religious or ethical reasons. Some members of Congress had sought to delay a decision until further studies were completed.

But Stephen Sundlof, director of the F.D.A. Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, said food from cloned animals was “indistinguishable” from that of conventionally bred animals.

“It is beyond our imagination to even have a theory for why the food is unsafe,” he said.

The F.D.A.’s approval extends to cloned cows, pigs and goats but not other farm animals like sheep; the agency cited insufficient data on cloned sheep. The F.D.A. said meat and milk from cloned animals and their offspring would not be labeled because it was the same as conventional food and did not pose a safety risk.

However, Representative Rosa DeLauro, Democrat of Connecticut, has introduced legislation to require labels on cloned products, and consumer groups suggested that labeling would be a battleground in the near future.

It remains to be seen how widely the technology will be adopted. Interest from the food industry has been tepid, with some companies declaring that they will not sell milk or meat from cloned animals or their offspring. Other types of reproductive technology, such as artificial insemination, faced resistance on farms when they were first developed but eventually became widespread.

Tuesday’s decision means cloning technology could move into commercial use little more than a decade after the world learned of Dolly the sheep, the first mammal cloned from an adult cell, in Scotland.

To create Dolly, scientists took an unfertilized sheep egg and removed the genetic material. They then inserted the genetic material from an adult cell. Machinery within the egg somehow reset the clock on the adult genes, and the new cell, after implantation into a surrogate mother sheep, developed into Dolly.

This technique has since become routine in laboratories, with clones produced in numerous species. Cloning is simply the creation of an identical genetic copy.

The F.D.A. tentatively declared food from cloned animals safe in 2003 and then came to the same conclusion after a draft risk assessment at the end of 2006.

The agency said it received more than 30,500 comments on that risk assessment, many of them form letters. It took some of those comments into account and added data from new studies to come out with the final risk assessment issued Tuesday.

The agency said that while some cloned animals have birth defects, presumably because genes are turned on or off at the wrong times, the ones that survive past a few weeks appear to be as healthy as conventional animals. And whatever those genetic abnormalities are, it said, they are not passed on to the conventionally bred offspring of clones.

source:NY Times

My comment: I find this article pretty convincing. I don't think there is an actual health problem with cloned meat, because it really should be just a copy.

Where I find the problem is in the cloning of the animals. If farmers can clone their best animals for example, they will stop inseminate them in a sexual way. Which is dangerous, because sex provides a natural mechanism for selection and betterment of the specie. If people stop crossing different animals and just replicate the same one, we're loosing the chance to have an animal that is better than its parents.

Cloning presumes absolute qualities that will be reproduced over and over. And probably crossing or God forbids genetic modifications in the search of better ones. And the decreased quantity of crossing will decrease the quality- it's one to have 10 000 cows that cross and one to have 100 or 1000. Statistics is the tool of genetic progress and using clones, we're refusing to use it.

And not on last place, if cloning becomes the norm, we can expect many, and I really mean A LOT not so good cows to be slaughtered. I don't care about the cows so much, as they slaughtered anyway, but they are part of the gene pool. They may not be the perfect cows, but they contain the key to perfectness. And after we loose them, it will be very hard to make them come back, especially if the whole planet decides it's better to clone animals.

Not to mention that the milk we consume from a box comes from many and different cows which have similar but not equal mineral balance. If it comes from one cow (or many copies of it) it may be a problem for some people. Though I can't guarantee for that one.

My point is-I doubt the meat or the milk will be dangerous, though I firmly believe it should be labeled so that people keep their choice. I only fear that this could lead to massive loss of genetic material and ultimately, to a loss of quality. And the genetic pool of the planet should be preserved on any cost. Because mistakes in science are not so rare, we have to have a way to reset the things and start over.

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