Cloned Meat & Milk

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration has moved a step closer to permitting the marketing of meat and milk from cloned animals. Here’s the story from the Washington Post‘s Rick Weiss: FDA Says Clones Are Safe To Eat

Taking a long-awaited stand in an emotionally fraught food fight, the Food and Drug Administration yesterday released a 678-page analysis concluding that milk and meat from cloned animals pose no unique risks to consumers.

The decision, subject to change after a period of public comment, stops short of approving the sale of food from clones and leaves in place for now a long-standing government request that farmers keep their clones off the market.

The story also suggests that a number of companies are waiting in the wings, ready to supply clones of prize-winning animals to serve as breeding stock for genetically-superior herds. Once the FDA gives its go-ahead (perhaps withing the next year), these companies will ramp up production, so that meat and milk from cloned animals may be available for purchase within 3 years. Inevitably, this prospect has resulted in demands for labelling:

Several groups are pushing for a requirement that cloned food be labeled as such, allowing consumers to avoid it. Sundlof said such labels would be inconsistent with a long-standing FDA policy to reserve labels for scientifically substantive issues.

As far as I can see, the argument I presented a few weeks ago regarding demands for labelling Genetically Modified foods applies equally well to demands for labelling cloned food. They key is that there just is no evidence that cloned food is any different, in any important way, from non-cloned food. Of course, lack of evidence of danger doesn’t constitute proof of safety…but it is meaningful in situations (like the present one) in which evidence has been sought out through appropriate methods used by the relevant experts.

My argument has been — and remains — not that judgments issued by the FDA or some blue-ribbon panel is going to settle the matter once & for all, but rather that such judgments can reasonably be relied upon by conscientious companies.

[Thanks to Cindy for forwarding the story.]

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