by Vicky Uhland
In a gesture that organizers hope will end the cloned-foods controversy, 20 American food companies and retailers have stated they will not use cloned animals in their products. Nonprofit, activist organizations Friends of the Earth and the Center for Food Safety announced Sept. 3 that manufacturing behemoths Kraft Foods, General Mills, Nestle and Campbell Soup Co. have pledged to avoid cloned-animal ingredients.
Ben & Jerry's, Amy's Kitchen, the Hain Celestial Group, Clover-Stornetta Farms, Oberweis Dairy, Prairie Farms Dairy, Plainview Dairy and Gossner Foods have taken the pledge one step farther, announcing they won't use products from clones or their offspring.
"Cloning is incompatible with the Organic Foods Production Act and prohibited under the National Organic Program regulations, with which we comply," said Hain spokeswoman Mary Anthes.
Retailers that have agreed to the noncloning pledge include Albertsons, SuperValu and Harris Teeter. Washington-based PCC Natural Markets, the first retailer or manufacturer to sign the pledge, also won't allow products from cloned offspring in its stores.
The pledges are a result of a CFS survey of food-industry members that began in January, after the Food and Drug Administration announced it wouldn't require special labeling of foods made from cloned animals or their offspring because "meat and milk from cow, pig and goat clones and the offspring of any animal clones are as safe as food we eat every day."
Because the FDA's animal-tracking system ends at the slaughterhouse, it's difficult for manufacturers or retailers to follow an animal all the way through the supply chain and ensure it doesn't have any cloned DNA, said Gillian Madill, FOE genetic-technologies campaigner. In addition, "Since they've been selling cloned bull semen for five years, there's likelihood you could encounter a cloned offspring without knowing it," she said.
As a result, "There is truly no way to be 100 percent sure" food producers aren't using ingredients from cloned animals or their offspring, Madill said, unless they're able to set up a system like PCC Natural Markets', which requires all suppliers to state the origin of their products. Therefore, the goal of the FOE/CFS cloned-food pledge is to "try to destroy the market before it exists. We don't want to get into a situation like [genetically modified organisms], where they were out there before anyone could stop them becoming a full-scale process," she said.
If enough companies sign the anti-clone pledge, they hope the groundswell will "prevent the undesirable production and use of this technology," Madill said. Added Lisa Bunin, campaigns coordinator for CFS, "This rejection of food from clones sends a strong message to biotech firms that their products may not find a market."
According to CFS, a General Mills spokesperson said "consumer acceptance" is an important consideration in the company's pledge not to use ingredients from clones, and Kraft noted that although the FDA said cloned foods are safe, "Product safety is not the only factor we consider in our products. We must also carefully consider additional factors such as consumer benefits and acceptance, â¦ and research in the U.S. indicates that consumers are currently not receptive to ingredients from cloned animals."
Madill said FOE and CFS are working to create an online registry to show the status of companies and retailers that have either been asked to sign the noncloning pledge or are in the process of doing so. She hopes the registry will be available in October, she said. In the meantime, retailers and manufacturers can sign up at www.foe.org or www.centerforfoodsafety.org.
Other food producers that have agreed not to use cloned animals in their products include Smithfield Foods, California Pizza Kitchen restaurants, Cloverland Green Spring Dairy and Byrne Dairy.
Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXVIII/number 10/p. 21