Natural Foods Merchandiser

Legislation proposed to label cloned food

In case food from cloned animals is federally approved for human consumption, federal and state legislation has already been introduced requiring it to be clearly labeled.

U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, a democrat from Maryland, introduced federal legislation in January that would require the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to mandate that all food that comes from cloned animals be labeled as such. The label would read: "This product is from a cloned animal or its progeny."

"I am strongly opposed to the FDA approving meat and milk products from cloned animals for human consumption," Mikulski said in a statement. "If cloned food is safe, let it onto the market, but give consumers the information they need to avoid these products if they choose to. We need to let Americans—many of whom find this repugnant—speak with their dollars and choose the food that they feel confident is safe."

California Sen. Carole Migden of San Francisco introduced similar state legislation only weeks after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration tentatively approved food from cloned animals. When the 90-day comment period on the topic ends in April, the FDA will announce its final decision, perhaps making America the first country to allow products from cloned animals to be sold for consumption.

Migden said, in a statement, that the FDA first needs to ensure the products would be safe. But she also pointed out that, according to a December 2006 poll by the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology, two-thirds of American consumers are uncomfortable with the idea of cloning animals. A December 2006 poll by the Center for Food, Nutrition and Agriculture Policy revealed similar attitudes (see chart, above).

"If the FDA approves placing food products from cloned animals on our grocery store shelves, California consumers ought to know what they're buying and be assured of the product's safety," Migden said. "After all, we label apricots, bananas and apples to show their place of origin; we label salmon as farm-raised or wild; the FDA requires irradiated food to be labeled," she said. "Requiring labels for dairy and meat products derived from cloned animals is the next reasonable step."

The International Dairy Foods Association opposes Mikulski's bill, saying such labeling efforts are premature and unnecessary for consumer education. The IDFA says such legislation could cause serious economic hardship to milk and dairy companies regardless of whether they will ever use milk from cloned cows in their products.

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXVIII/number 3/p. 17

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