Eleven years after scientists produced the first cloned animal, a sheep named Dolly, the FDA this year could approve the sale of dairy products and meat from clones in supermarkets nationwide —unless concerned shoppers act now, according to the National Cooperative Grocers Association (NCGA), a business services cooperative for consumer-owned natural food co-ops located throughout the United States.
The FDA is accepting public comment on the approval of food from cloned animals, which are exact genetic replicas of other animals. The comment period, recently extended to May 3, follows the FDA’s controversial announcement in December 2006 that meat and milk from cattle, swine and goat clones are as safe to eat as meat and milk from “normal” livestock.
Since the FDA discerns no differences between foods from cloned and non-cloned animals, labeling of cloned livestock products will not be required, adding to the list of issues some scientists, food-safety and animal-welfare experts have with the products.
“We believe cloned products hold no benefit for consumers, and raise concerns with respect to food safety and humane animal treatment,” said Robynn Shrader, chief executive office for NCGA. “At the very least, if these products are approved for sale, they must be labeled so that consumers can decide for themselves whether or not they’ll purchase them.”
Some of the main reasons members of NCGA are concerned about food from clones include:
Adequate testing and studies, including complete health profiles on cloned animals throughout their life cycles, has not been conducted to determine whether or not there are health risks associated with eating products from cloned animals.
Many scientists believe that clones—even those that appear healthy—can carry genetic abnormalities that may jeopardize the safety of milk or meat they produce. The Center for Food Safety has stated “animal cloning is a new technology with potentially severe risks for food safety.” Ian Wilmut, the lead scientist in the creation of Dolly, has stated that even slight imbalances in the hormone, protein or fat levels of a clone could endanger the safety of its milk or meat. According to the National Academy of Sciences, there is not enough data to show whether the hidden defects in clones pose food safety risks.
Moreover, animals serving as hosts in the cloning process are often given large amounts of hormones. Cloned animals are given large doses of antibiotics to deter early health problems. As a result, massive levels of veterinary hormones and antibiotics will appear in the human food supply.
Inhumane treatment of animals, other ethical considerations
Animal hosts for cloning, as well as cloned animals, suffer pregnancy complications, late-term spontaneous abortions, grossly oversized calves and early prenatal deaths. Cloned animals that survive often have severe deformities and other problems, such as intestinal blockages, enlarged tongues, immune deficiencies, diabetes, heart, lung and kidney damage, and brain abnormalities. Early, unexpected deaths are common. Consequently, the Humane Society of the United States has condemned cloning.
What Concerned Consumers Can Do
NCGA and its members are encouraging concerned shoppers to take immediate action:
- Contact the FDA and state your concerns. Send your letter (re: Docket # 2003N-0573) to: Division of Dockets Management, Food and Drug Administration, 5630 Fishers Lane, Room 1061, Rockville, MD, 20852.
- Spread the word. Write a letter to your local media stating your concerns, teach your family about the issue and talk with friends.
- Sign the Petition to Label Cloned Meat & Dairy Products here.
- Support state and local legislation calling for labeling of products from cloned livestock.
- Many co-ops have refused to sell products from cloned animals. Support your co-op in this decision.
- Post your opinion here.
- Contact your legislators to state your support of the Cloned Food Labeling Act here.