Recently, the FDA deemed milk and meat from cloned livestock to be safe for human consumption. This doesn’t mean that cloned food will be showing up on grocery store shelves right away – it could be months or even years before it does as the FDA has requested that the dairy and meat industries continue a voluntary moratorium on cloned food for a while. In the meantime, questions are swirling around the issue of cloned food.
While the FDA says it will not require labeling on cloned food, consumer groups are demanding that cloned food is properly identified and labeled. The problem at this point seems to be a lack of solid information about the possible risks involved with consuming cloned food – no one is certain what those risks may be, or if indeed there are risks.
Here is what is known:
- The FDA has issued it’s assessment on cloning which states that meat and dairy from cloned cows, goats and pigs, and their offspring is safe to consume. The method the FDA used to reach this assessment is viewed by some as incomplete at best and includes little in the way of peer-reviewed research. At one point, the FDA had said it would use the same methods that it uses for evaluating new animal drugs, but eventually that idea was canned. Many have deemed the evaluation process that was used to be inadequate.
- It is known that clones and their offspring are generally not as healthy as animals that are not clones or the product of clones. This means that more antibiotics must be used to keep clones healthy. In fact, many clones are born with health complications and die unexpectedly. It is known that cloning can create abnormalities with genetic expression and chromosomes. Sick animals are not supposed to be part of the food system, but clones unfortunately often look normal and healthy until they die for no apparent reason. These problems don’t appear to have been addressed by the FDA yet.
- Some meat and dairy companies are saying that they will not use cloned animals for food and that they will label their products “clone-free”. This is great as long as all clones and their offspring are tracked.
- At this point, the FDA is saying that they will not track the offspring of cloned animals, which have the potential for carrying the same possibly damaged chromosomes as the clones themselves.
- There are some ethical issues yet to be addressed with animal cloning. About 90% of cloning attempts fail and many cloned animals are born with poor health. Some would oppose this practice as an issue of animal cruelty.
It is entirely possible that cloned dairy and meat products will be perfectly safe to eat. But the verdict is still out and seems to be a ways off. Until then, it is best to stay informed. If you are concerned about cloned food sneaking onto your table, your best bet is to go organic.