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by Elizabeth Bird and SFUSA staff

After reports last week that it was likely to happen, news reports today announced that the FDA has given yet another indication that food– that is meat and milk–from cloned animals and their offspring is safe for general consumption. This comes four years after the FDA released its original decision on the health and safety of cloned animals for food production. Uneasy with the reliability of the research on which the FDA based its original decision, both concerned consumer groups and scientists rallied on the issue. The FDA responded by issuing a request that producers heed a voluntary moratorium from selling cloned animals for food production purposes. Today’s declaration effectively puts an end to the debate and sets the future of cloned food in America.

The decision is a great victory for cloning companies, which generally promote cloned animals for breeding purposes. Cloning proponents seek to upgrade an entire herd’s genetics by using multiple copies of a prize-winning animal. Clones themselves, due to the high cost of the cloning procedure, are not likely bound for the slaughterhouse, but the USDA decision will surely affect the possibility that their offspring can be sold for general consumption.

The FDA’s decision dismisses both concern from scientific communities regarding the risks of cloned food, but also ignores ethically questionable practices intrinsic to the cloning process. The FDA has also indicated that it will not require food from cloned animals to be labeled, so the public will have no way of knowing whether they are purchasing a cloned product.

Bonnie, over at Ethicurean, makes an excellent point: how much testing could have been done in this short time? And just because the meat had the appropriate nutrients contained within, does that answer all concerns? What if there’s something there that scientists havent thought to look for?

If you have concerns about this issue and would like to express them, consider taking a look at The Center for Food Safety. Their “take action” link allows concerned individuals to write directly to their congressperson and senator to express concern over labeling food from cloned animals.

Also: check out this interesting perspective from Wired mag. The author says: “I’m particularly interested in this line of research because it seems to highlight the distinction between people who want just humane food and those who want natural food.” Touches on what it means to care about the origins of your food.