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Originally published Sunday, January 6, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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FDA set to accept cloned meat, milk

Having completed a years-long scientific review, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is set to announce as early as this week that meat...

The Washington Post

Food for thought

A clone is a genetic replica, typically made from a single skin cell of a desirable animal. A few U.S. companies, saying the technology will make products from the tastiest beef cattle, leanest pigs and most generous milk producers more widely available to consumers, are pushing for approval to market meat and milk from cloned animals.

The Washington Post

WASHINGTON — Having completed a years-long scientific review, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is set to announce as early as this week that meat and milk from cloned farm animals and their offspring can start appearing on supermarket shelves, sources said Friday.

The decision would be an act of defiance against Congress, which last month passed legislation recommending that any such approval be delayed pending further studies.

Moreover, the Senate version of the farm bill, yet to be reconciled with the House version, contains stronger, binding language that would block FDA action on cloned food, probably for years.

With a conference committee poised to complete the farm bill in the next few weeks, the FDA was left with a potentially narrow time frame within which to act if it wanted to settle the issue in sync with the nation's major meat-trading partners.

New Zealand and Australia have released reports concluding that meat and milk from animal clones are safe. Canada and Argentina are reportedly close to doing the same.

Although European consumers are generally uncomfortable with agricultural biotechnology, the European Union's food-safety agency is expected to endorse the safety of meat and milk from clones in a draft statement that could be released within the next week.

"The science seems to be leading them and us to the same conclusion," said a U.S. trade official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The FDA has hinted strongly in the past year that it was ready to lift its "voluntary moratorium" on the marketing of milk and meat from clones and their offspring.

Multiple studies compiled by the agency have shown that the chemical composition of those products is virtually identical to that of milk and meat from conventionally bred animals.

Studies in which rodents were fed food from clones have found no evidence of adverse health effects.

But public opinion has been negative, with some saying that not enough safety studies have been conducted and others concerned about the health of the clones, which are far more likely than ordinary farm animals to die prematurely.

As of Friday, the FDA would not confirm or deny that it was close to releasing its so-called final risk assessment.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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