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    FDA: Meat of Cloned Animals Safe to Eat

    Agency Says Milk and Meat From Clones Pose No Risks to Humans
    WebMD Health News
    Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

    Jan. 15, 2008 -- The FDA concluded Tuesday that meat and milk from cloned animals is safe for human consumption, clearing the way for clones to enter the U.S. food supply.

    The much-anticipated decision was the culmination of years of review by the agency, which has been investigating whether cloning puts animals at risk of genetic changes that could be dangerous if consumed by humans.

    "These products are no different than foods from traditionally bred animals," says Bruce I. Knight, Under Secretary for marketing and regulatory programs at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. 

    The decision does not necessarily mean that milk and meat from cloned animals is likely to arrive on grocery store shelves. Producers instead are interested in using cloning techniques to replicate prize breeding stock that could then be used to sire cattle for beef or milk.

    In fact, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has asked producers to continue a voluntary moratorium on cloned animal products until the government and industry work out a transition plan.

    Cloning Process

    The cloning process for cattle is nearly identical to human embryo cloning techniques, which continue to face staunch debate in Washington and around the world.

    In the process, known as somatic cell nuclear transfer, technicians remove an egg cell's DNA and replace it with DNA from a body cell of a donor. The resulting cell can then be chemically programmed to divide, and if it survives, it gives rise to an exact genetic copy of the body cell donor animal.

    Knight said the U.S. government would now move to implement a "smooth and seamless transition into the marketplace for these products."

    Meat, dairy, and biotech companies had pushed hard for the conclusion they got Tuesday.

    The decision means that meat or milk from the offspring of cloned animals could reach grocery store shelves within two to three years "at the earliest," says Karen Batra, a spokeswoman for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, an industry group.

    In Europe, a food safety agency of the European Union has also weighed in on the issue of cloned animals for food. According to the Associated Press, the European Food Safety Authority issued a preliminary report that said that milk and meat from cloned animals is probably safe for human consumption.

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