WASHINGTON - Food and milk from the offspring of cloned
animals may have entered the U.S. food supply, the U.S. government said
on Tuesday, but it would be impossible to know because there is no
difference between cloned and conventional products.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said in January meat and milk
from cloned cattle, swine and goats and their offspring were as safe as
products from traditional animals. Before then, farmers and ranchers
had followed a voluntary moratorium on the sale of clones and their
While the FDA evaluated the safety of food from clones and their
offspring, the U.S. Agriculture Department was in charge of managing
the transition of these animals into the food supply.
"It is theoretically possible" offspring from clones are in the food supply, said Siobhan DeLancey, an FDA spokeswoman.
Cloning animals involves taking the nuclei of cells from adults and
fusing them into egg cells that are implanted into a surrogate mother.
There are an estimated 600 cloned animals in the United States.
Proponents, including the Biotechnology Industry Organization, say
cloning is a way to create more disease-resistant animals that produce
more milk and better meat. The cloning industry and the FDA say cloned
animals and their offspring are as safe as their traditional
Critics contend not enough is known about the technology to ensure
it is safe, and they also say the FDA needs to address concerns over
animal cruelty and ethical issues.
"It worries me that this technology is out of control in so many
ways," said Charles Margulis, a spokesman with the Center for
Environmental Health. The possibility of offspring being in the food
supply "is just another element of that," he said.
FDA and USDA have said it is impossible to differentiate between
cloned animals, their offspring and conventionally bred animals, making
it difficult to know if offspring are in the food supply.
"But they would be a very limited number because of the very few
number of clones that are out there and relatively few of those clones
are at an age where they would be parenting," said Bruce Knight, USDA's
undersecretary for marketing and regulatory programs.
As the FDA unveiled its final rule, USDA in January asked producers
to prolong the ban on selling products from cloned animals. That ban
did not extend to meat and milk from the clone's offspring.
Major food companies including Tyson Foods Inc, the largest U.S.
meat company, and Smithfield Foods Inc have said they would avoid using
cloned animals because of safety concerns.
The list grew on Tuesday after the Center for Food Safety and
Friends of the Earth said 20 food producers and retailers vowed not to
use ingredients from cloned animals.
The list, provided by the two groups, included Kraft Foods Inc,
General Mills Inc, Campbell Soup Co, Nestle SA, California Pizza
Kitchen Inc and Supervalu Inc.
In a letter to the Center for Food Safety, Susan Davison, director
of corporate affairs with Kraft, said product safety was "not the only
factor" the company considers.
"We must also carefully consider additional factors such as consumer
benefits and acceptance ... and research in the U.S. indicates that
consumers are currently not receptive to ingredients from cloned
animals," she said.
Editing by Christian Wiessner and David Gregorio