DALLAS — Adding a significant new wrinkle to the debate over the commercial viability of meat and milk sourced from cloned animals, Dean Foods, the nation's largest dairy producer, has said it will not accept milk from cloned cows, regardless of the Food and Drug Administration's pending policy statement on whether these foods will require special labeling.
“Based on the desire of our customers and consumers, Dean Foods will not accept milk from cows that have been cloned,” the company announced in a recent statement. “If the FDA does approve the sale of milk from cloned cows, we will work with our dairy farmers to implement protocols to ensure that the milk they supply to Dean Foods does not come from cloned cows.
“The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is expected to conclude that milk from cloned cows is safe,” the statement continued. “Our decision not to accept this milk is based on meeting our consumers' expectations. We see no consumer benefit from this technology.”
In a similar move, the company last year responded to consumer and retailer concerns about the use of synthetic growth hormones in dairy herds by making several of its facilities in the Northeast, including New England, rBGH- and rBST-free.
The issue may be a moot point in the near term, however. Costing between $15,000 and $20,000, the cloning process is prohibitively expensive for most dairy operations to adopt on a large scale.
The technology will likely appeal only to breeders in the foreseeable future, and only the offspring of clones, rather than the clones themselves, will end up in dairy herds.
That prospect has failed to comfort opponents of the technology, although industry groups, including the American Meat Institute, are currently working on public relations and education campaigns in an effort to convince consumers that the technologies are safe.
The FDA is expected to rule on the labeling issue in April.