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FDA to Consider Ethical Concerns on Animal Cloning

FDA to Consider Ethical Concerns on Animal Cloning
WASHINGTON - The Food and Drug Administration said last week it will consider the ethical concerns posed by U.S. consumer groups on animal cloning before deciding whether to allow the sale of their milk and meat products. An FDA risk analysis concluded that food from cloned animals or their offspring were as safe as conventional food. A summary of the report, which Reuters obtained on Thursday, was released publicly last week. The FDA findings bring the agency one step closer to determining whether to allow the commercialization of food from cloned animals. A final policy decision is expected next year. The nascent industry, which includes industry leaders ViaGen Inc. and Cyagra Inc., has voluntarily agreed not to sell any food products from cloned animals until the FDA makes its decision. FDA Deputy Commissioner Lester Crawford told reporters the agency would \"not rush to judgment\" and would closely review all public concerns on animal cloning. \"Although the document being released today does not specifically address ethical issues, that fact does not mean FDA is overlooking those issues,\" the agency said in a statement. Consumer groups and some Democrats questioned whether there was enough public support for such food and if the technology would hurt the agricultural economy. \"I think most Americans are still struggling with the ethical issues surrounding cloning and this will certainly be a necessary part of that debate,\" said Rep. Rosa DeLauro, a Connecticut Democrat and critic of the Bush administration\'s handling of food safety issues. One concern was whether cloning would devastate independent farmers who are unable to afford it, a consumer advocate said. A cloned calf can sell for as mush as $82,000, while an average calf costs less than $1,000. Biotech companies clone animals by taking the nuclei of cells from adults and fusing them into other egg cells from which the nuclei have been extracted. Livestock have already been cloned for sale to producers. If the FDA decided food from cloned animals was safe, the agency said it would most likely not require special labels on the products. \"If these animals are identical to other animals that are currently in the food chain, there would be little rationale for labeling,\" Crawford said. Consumer advocates disagreed, saying the public has a right to know what they are eating. \"The public should have the right and the ability to determine whether to support this action,\" said Carol Tucker Foreman, food policy director of the Consumer Federation of America. \"The only way to do that is to require that products from cloned animals be clearly labeled as such.\" Industry groups representing food processors and retailers said they had not yet taken a position on food labeling but believed any FDA actions should be science-based. \"Our companies our examining this very closely,\" said Stephanie Childs, spokeswoman for the Grocery Manufacturers of America. The FDA said the agency would review further scientific data on the animal cloning in making a final decision. \"We could conclude we don\'t have enough information,\" Crawford said. In that case, the FDA would continue to ask the industry not to sell food from cloned animals until further studies could be conducted. Story by Randy Fabi REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
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