Between Christmas and New Year's Eve, the U.S. Food and Drug administration announced its tentative approval of meat and milk from cloned cattle, pigs, goats, and all of these animals' offspring, as safe foods to eat. The draft risk assessment, released Dec. 28, was based on hundreds of peer-reviewed publications and other studies on health and food composition of clones and their offspring, according to Stephen F. Sundlof, DVM, Ph.D., director of FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine. But the FDA's statement met almost immediate criticism from food safety organizations and sectors of the food industry, as well as religious and animal-rights groups.
Since the FDA first addressed cloned animals as food in 2003, it has asked producers of clones and livestock breeders to voluntarily refrain from introducing food products from cloned animals into the marketplace. Now the FDA is seeking public comment until April 2.
Critics of the proposed policy cite concerns from animal rights and narrowing of the gene pool, to safety and the FDA's motivations.
George Siemon, CEO of organic farmers cooperative Organic Valley, criticized the FDA for looking out for big business instead of consumers. "Cloning is not just about producing food for consumers. It's about greed and patents," Siemon said in a statement. "The real question with cloning is who is going to benefit—consumers? Farmers? Animals?"
"Instead of doing its job, the Bush FDA has ignored the science and fast-tracked this decision for the benefit of a few cloning companies," said Joseph Mendelson, legal director for the Center for Food Safety in a statement. "This is a lose-lose situation for consumers and the dairy industry." The CFS and a coalition of consumer, environmental and animal welfare organizations had already filed a legal petition in October seeking a moratorium on foods from cloned animals, establishment of mandatory rules for pre-market food safety and environmental review of cloned foods, and formation of a Department of Health and Human Services federal review committee to advise the FDA on ethical issues raised by animal cloning.
Mel Coleman Jr., chairman of Golden, Colo.-based Coleman Natural Meats, said he could see how a market for high-quality beef at low prices fuels arguments for cloning to produce more animals with desirable traits, but Coleman said he didn't think food from clones would be widely accepted, at least among his natural meat customers. "I've talked with thousands of customers, and they don't want it," he said. "I have a strong opinion that when you do things right, you can find consumers that are willing to pay the price."
As far as its effects on the organic- and natural-meat sector, former National Organic Standards Board Chairman Jim Riddle wrote in an article that animal cloning is not allowed for organic production under the National Organic Program for several reasons, the most basic being that cloned animals are genetically modified, which falls under NOP-excluded methods.
Riddle wrote that NOP regulations require organic livestock producers to establish and maintain preventative livestock healthcare practices and accommodate the health and natural behavior of animals, while the FDA admits that some animals in the cloning process are at an increased risk for health problems relative to conventional animals.
Noncloned food producers will likely have to follow suit with non-GM food companies regarding labeling. Because the FDA does not require labeling for GM foods, producers of non-GM foods have had to do their own labeling to distinguish their products from masses of genetically modified foods on the market. Siemon said though Organic Valley tries to stick with positive marketing on its labels, the new policy would force them to label products "not from cloned animals."
Both Siemon and Coleman, however, are optimistic that organic and naturals customers value clone-free foods and understand though they might cost a little more, they're worth the price in the long run.
Tell FDA: No Food From Cloned Animals!
The Food and Drug Administration has completed its review of food from animal clones and FDA regulators say that the agency will likely approve the sale of cloned foods this year. FDA's action flies in the face of widespread scientific concern about the risks of food from clones, and ignores the animal cruelty and troubling ethical concerns that the cloning process bring. What's worse, FDA indicates that it will not require labeling on cloned food, so consumers will have no way to avoid these experimental foods. FDA needs to hear that you don't want food from animal clones—a public comment period is open until April 2!
Send your comment to FDA TODAY! Take action online at http://ga3.org/campaign/Cloning