Cloned food called safe, but is it desirable?

Helen Palmer Dec 28, 2006

BOB MOON: From the Frank Stanton Studios in Los Angeles, I’m Bob Moon in for Kai Ryssdal, who — like many others — is taking a break for the holidays. The Food and Drug Administration has been hard at work, though, on this Thursday, December 28th. The federal agency issued a key report about the safety of meat and milk from cloned animals.

Basically, the FDA is saying, these products are safe. But as Helen Palmer reports from the Health Desk at WGBH, that doesn’t mean they’ll be turning up at your local supermarket anytime soon:

HELEN PALMER: The FDA stressed today that the moratorium that keeps all cloned livestock products out of the food supply is still in place. But the agency’s head of veterinary medicine, Stephen Sundlof, said safety’s not the issue.

STEPHEN SUNDLOF: Meat and milk from cattle, swine and goat clones is as safe to eat as the food we eat every day.

The meat and milk of the offspring of clones is equally safe, said Sundlof. What’s more, there’s no reason why cloned meat or milk should carry any special label. That’s a decision Mark Walton approves of. He’s president of Viagen, a Texas company that specializes in cloning livestock.

MARK WALTON: If there is no risk, if there are no health issues to justify labeling, then don’t label.

Walton says cloning will help farmers. After all, a clone costs 15 to 20 thousand dollars. A top breeding cow can fetch nearly half a million dollars. Today’s announcement kicks off 90 days of public comment. The FDA will definitely hear from Andrew Kimbrell of the watchdog Center for Food Safety.

ANDREW KIMBRELL: It’s bad for the consumers. It’s bad for the animals — causes terrible animal suffering. And it’s bad for the meat and dairy industry. So, it’s a lose, lose, lose, proposition.

Kimbrell says there have been so few animal clones it’s really impossible to be sure they’ll be safe if they’re eaten. People don’t want to eat cloned food anyway, says Carol Tucker Foreman of the Consumer Federation of America, the CFA.

CAROL TUCKER FOREMAN: The Gallup poll shows that over 60 percent of Americans think it is immoral to clone animals.

Foreman says if Congress doesn’t intervene here, the CFA will ask supermarkets not to stock cloned food.

In Boston, I’m Helen Palmer for Marketplace.

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