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Clones' offspring may be in U.S. food supply

September 2, 2008 |  6:19 pm

Reuters has an update on the "cloned food" controversy:

Food and milk from the offspring of cloned animals may already have entered the U.S. food supply, the Food and Drug Administration said Monday, but it would be impossible to know because there is no difference between cloned and conventional products.

The FDA said in January that meat and milk from cloned cattle, swine and goats and their offspring were as safe to eat as products obtained from traditional animals. Before then, farmers and ranchers had followed a voluntary moratorium that prevented the sale of clones and their offspring.

“It is theoretically possible” that offspring from clones are in the food supply, said Siobhan DeLancey, an FDA spokeswoman. “I don’t know whether they are or not. I could imagine there are not very many of them.”

Proponents, including the Biotechnology Industry Organization, say cloned animals are safe and a way to create animals that produce more milk and better meat and are more disease-resistant.

There are currently an estimated 600 cloned animals in the United States. The small cloning industry and the FDA have maintained cloned animals and their offspring are as safe as their regular counterparts.

Cloning animals involves taking the nuclei of cells from adults and fusing them into egg cells that are implanted into a surrogate mother. U.S. Agriculture Department spokesman Keith Williams said ”there is no way to differentiate” between cloned animals, their offspring and conventionally bred animals, making it difficult to know if they are in the food supply.

Even as the FDA unveiled its final rule, USDA asked in January for the cloning industry to prolong the ban on selling products from cloned animals during a “transition” period expected to last at least several months. That ban would not extend to meat and milk from the clone’s offspring.

Critics still contend not enough is known about the technology to ensure it is safe, and they also say the FDA needs to address concerns over animal cruelty and ethical issues. “It worries me that this technology is out of control in so many ways,” said Charles Margulis, a spokesman with the Center for Environmental Health. The possibility of offspring being in the food supply “is just another element of that,” he said.

Despite the backing from FDA, major food companies including Tyson Foods Inc , the largest U.S. meat company, and Smithfield Foods Inc have said they would avoid using cloned animals because of safety concerns.

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