Weekly Comment

Arnie and the clones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Food

Cloned foods have not yet made it to our grocery aisles, but in the
advent of such a rollout consumers must have a defined right
to decide if they want to swallow the technology or not.

And that's why regulators worldwide have to follow California's recent trailblazing move to impose labeling on such products. If Governor Schwarzeneggar agrees, at least California will be prepared. Bill SB 63 calls for labels indicating when food for human consumption is in fact derived from an animal clone or its offspring. While opponents say such labeling requirements are premature and will only scare consumers, the truth is they are a wise measure in preparation for the uncertain consequences of the technology. Ten years have come and gone since the world's first cloned animal, Dolly the sheep, was born. Though Dolly was a Scot, regulation on those of her ilk looks set to dawn on the other side of the Atlantic, where Governor Schwarzeneggar now has until October 15 to sign or veto the bill. Estimates as to when foods derived from cloned animals will be available on the market vary, but many scientists warn that the technology is still not well understood. Not even the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been as brave as the Golden State, and it is unlikely to require labeling of food from cloned animals. The federal authority released a preliminary risk assessment on the issue in December 2006, followed by a public comment period. The upshot of the research being it did not find any particular risk with such goods. Stifled by all the hot air, Washington's Center for Food Safety issued a report in March on the safety of food from animal clones, in which it denounced these findings. The Center wrote that none of the studies under the umbrella of FDA's investigation actually focused on the safety of meat from cloned cows or pigs, or even the milk or meat from the offspring of cloned animals. While the federal agency still has a voluntary ban imposed on the sale of food from cloned animals, it will decide whether to lift this ban following review of the recent public feedback. Food manufacturers are being equally wishy-washy. The Grocery Manufacturers Association-Food Products Association (GMA-FPA) is against labeling food derived from cloned animals - however, it supports the use of labels for food that is not sourced from cloned animals. This 'reverse' labeling is to avoid scaring consumers away from cloned products. Polls indicate consumers are already wary of a technology they know best as a gauntlet of baby animals on the six o'clock news that have names like Snuppy, CC and Ralph. In May, a national survey conducted by Consumers Union, the publisher of Consumer Reports, revealed 69 percent of Americans have concerns about cloned meat and dairy products in their food supply. In terms of labeling, the survey indicated 89 percent want to be made aware if their foods come from cloned animals. Manufacturers in favor of cloning say the technology could save years of breeding time and allow farmers to pre-select their best livestock in order to make them leaner or disease-free, for example. However, detractors point to the fact that many of these animals have been weaker and more antibiotic dependent than their non-cloned counterparts. Already suffering from arthritis and lung disease, poor Dolly was euthanized at the young age of six. While we hope her life was not in vain, regulators worldwide should nonetheless take California's lead and put in place safeguards for our long-term safety. Clarisse Douaud is a reporter with NutraIngredients-USA.com and has lived and worked in Canada, Ireland, Argentina and France. If you would like to comment on the piece, send an email to:​ clarisse.douaud@decisionnews.com

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