Better Standards for Clone-derived Food Products

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In January, 2008, the FDA released a report stating that meats and milk derived from cloned livestock or their offspring are “likely as safe” as those products from conventional animals. Despite this declaration,  a voluntary moratorium on the sale of cloned-derived products  was encouraged to continue until the USDA established its own policy.

In the meantime, public skepticism is strong as many issues regarding these products have not been resolved. With US meat consumption constantly increasing (see graph – USDA, Economic Research Service) , questionable food safety, lack of consumer access to information, and threats to economic security are all arguments against current policies governing clone-derived products.

Currently, clone-derived products do not require special labeling. In the absence of clear labeling, consumers are unable to make informed decisions about the products they purchase. A more significant risk to public health stemming from the labeling issue would be the government’s inability to track any potential problems which are discovered to result from consumption.

While the FDA has published its sources and the research which led to its conclusion regarding cloned livestock, the decision has been questioned by many voices in the scientific community. Most notably, the National Academy of Sciences concurs that there is little evidence to contraindicate consumption, but emphasizes the considerable lack of long-term data that assures safety outcomes for consumers.

Although major importers of U.S. livestock, such as Japan and South Korea, have not banned purchase of clone-derived products, the U.S. must recognize that a larger market for a product not yet fully understood poses a more widespread potential risk; not only for the economic integrity of trade agreements, but for foreign consumers as well.

With clone-derived products (breeding products and milk) already being distributed domestically at a higher rate than the public is aware of, it is important to re-visit the issue with congress as soon as possible. A coalition of stakeholders and consumer interest groups must bring legislative pressure to the FDA so that they revise their labeling standards and enhance/expand their risk management program.

US Per Capita Meat Consumption 1950-2007

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4 Responses to “Better Standards for Clone-derived Food Products”

  1. sharrisdoc Says:

    Very interesting! I would like to emphasize the fact there is a lack of long term data. With human consumption being the outcome, it is important to ensure that genetic, bioavailable, and future disease are not the result of eating something that has not been properly tested. A long term animal study would at least make one feel more secure about this. Remember many foods that supposedly had been tested in the past have been found to be detrimental.

  2. ewallace82 Says:

    The European Union has tried banning genetically modified organisms from its food supply for this reason. There is not enough evidence to say that they are safe or not. The problem becomes how to recognise GMO foods. Often, only specialized tests would be able to detect the differences, which the FDA is unlikely to employ widely.

    From a consumer’s standpoint, I’d rather not be the guinea pig. From a scientist’s standpoint, we’ve been genetically modifying plants and animals for thousands of years through selective breeding. It doesn’t seem to have done us much harm.

  3. bellis1 Says:

    I’d be interested to know what proportion of the US food supply comprises GM animal-products – I suspect not very much, unllike for maize (corn) and soya, where GM crops are now fairly common in US production.

    I also wonder upon whom the onus of safety falls. It’s impossibly from a scientific point of view to “prove” anything is safe. All you can do is say that in the studies that have been done (specific populations, specific quantities of food ingested, over limited time periods) no adverse effects were noted. Many IVF sceptics weren’t satisfied it was safe until Louise Brown (first child born by IVF) gave birth to a normal child. Some still aren’t…

    Given the lack of a sound theoretical basis for harm, and absence of harm in early studies, shouldn’t the onus now be on the “urban worriers” now to find evidence of harm?

    Finally, although it’s hard to argue against comprehensive labelling, there has to be an element of responsibility. There’s a danger that labelling GMOs as such will create a public feeling of risk, where none has been established. There are more important labels to be argued – meat production using antibiotics for example, which is becoming a critical public health problem due to antimicrobial resistance. Or the use of sex horomones in American beef production, which has led to international import bans (the EU one hotly contested at the WTO…)

  4. tagnip Says:

    Thanks for bringing attention to this topic. I have not heard as much debate over clone-derived food products as I have over GMOs; but there is equal cause for concern. Despite the lack of long term data regarding the health effects of consuming cloned-derived products or GMOs, isn’t a proactive, preventative approach to public health better than waiting for the “burden of proof”? While we wait for the science, these products should at least be properly labeled so consumers can make informed decisions as to what they are putting into their bodies.

    There is a great documentary, The Future of Food (http://www.thefutureoffood.com/), which offers an “in-depth investigation into the disturbing truth behind the unlabeled, patented, genetically engineered foods that have quietly filled U.S. grocery store shelves for the past decade.” Anyone interested in the GMO debate should check it out.

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