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FDA: ‘Cloned’ food OK |’Cloned’ food OK

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BOB MOON: After seven years, there’s a formal decision on the safety of food from cloned animals. The verdict? It’s safe — at least according to the Food and Drug Administration. Now we’re talking about cloned cows, pigs and goats, just to be clear. The FDA says sheep are another story, and need a closer look. Today’s decision comes despite protests from consumer groups and Congress, which passed a bill urging further study. And as Sarah Gardner reports, some of the country’s biggest food companies don’t have much appetite for the technology, either.

SARAH GARDNER: According to the FDA, meat and milk from clones and their offspring are as safe to eat as food from “conventionally bred animals.” That’s good news for a handful of small companies that are pushing the technology.

Outfits like ViaGen in Austin, Texas, charge about $13,500 to replicate a prize cow, for example. But some of the biggest names in the U.S. food industry — Tyson, Dean Foods and Smithfield, among others — say they have no plans to buy food from cloned livestock, at least for now. Tyson’s Gary Mickelson:

GARY MICKELSON: Whatever measures we ultimately take will be guided by government regulations and the desires of our customers and consumers.

Key word there: Consumers. Americans are relatively nonchalant about genetically-modified grains and veggies but many are starting to reject certain farm practices, like injecting growth hormones into dairy cows. Cloning is even more suspect to many consumers, says Will Rostov, an attorney with the Center for Food Safety.

WILL ROSTOV: Well, I think there’s a big problem here because one of the things that FDA is done is they’re not requiring labeling, so people aren’t going to know if their meat or milk is from cloned animals. It’s going to create a huge public relations problem for the food industry whose customers don’t want these products.

But Mark Walton, the CEO of ViaGen says consumers just don’t understand the technology. He says much of what people know of clones is from sci-fi movies. And the clone is always a scary, bad guy.

I’m Sarah Gardner for Marketplace.

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