WASHINGTON — Meat and milk from the clones of cattle, swine and goats, as well as from the offspring of cloned animals, are safe for human consumption, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has concluded, following a months-long risk assessment and public comment period.
“We conclude that meat and milk from cattle, swine and goat clones are as safe as food we eat every day,” Stephen Sundloff, director of the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, said during a press conference announcing the decision.
Controversy over the topic has been stirring for over a year, with many opponents questioning the ethics of the technology or demanding more research into its safety. Yet in its decision, the FDA said that it will not require any special labeling for these food products derived from cloned animals.
“The FDA does not require labeling if there are no food safety issues,” Sundloff said.
Because animal cloning is still such an expensive process, meat and milk sold for human consumption will most likely come from the offspring of the cloned animals and not the cloned animals themselves in the foreseeable future, and FDA officials say there is no technological way to distinguish between meat or milk from this offspring and from an animal bred in a traditional manner.
Assisted reproductive technology allows farmers and ranchers to preserve the best genes in their herds, said Bruce Knight, undersecretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in the press conference.
“I've been ranching for well over 20 years, and in that time building the genetics in my particular herd for palatability, cutability and the health of that particular product to meet a consumer demand.”
Last week, the FDA issued three documents on animal cloning outlining the agency's regulatory approach — a risk assessment, a risk management plan and guidance for industry. Although the USDA is currently urging the ranching and dairy industries to continue with their voluntary moratorium in order to allow the marketplace to adjust, Knight said that the department will ultimately work to help products sourced from clones and their offspring to make it to market.
“Now that FDA has evaluated the scientific data, the public comments, and issued its final risk assessment, the USDA will join with the technology providers, producers, processors, retailers and domestic and international customers to facilitate the marketing of meat and milk from clones,” Knight said.
“We'll be working closely with stakeholders to ensure a smooth and painless transition into the marketplace for these products.”
He continued: “We are looking forward to working with our customers both domestically and abroad on the next steps on the acceptance and the adoption of these products.”
There are approximately 600 cloned animals in the U.S. today, and about 570 of those are cattle, Knight said. To the best of the FDA's and the USDA's knowledge, there is no product from cloned animals being sold yet in the U.S. Some producers, such as Smithfield Foods and Tyson, have said they have no plans to sell product from cloned animals as of now.