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U.S. FDA clears meat, milk from cloned animals

A final risk assessment released Tuesday by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has found that meat and milk from cloned animals are safe to consume.

A final risk assessment released Tuesday by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has found that meat and milk from cloned animals are safe to consume.

FDA approval is expected to be the final regulatory clearance needed before meat and milk from goats, cows and pigs can be sold in the U.S. marketplace.

"Many farmers and ranchers are already using other assisted reproductive technology, such as artificial insemination, embryo transfer, in vitro fertilization," said Bruce Knight of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

"Cloning is another breeding technology that has evolved and has now been demonstrated to be safe."   

FDA researchers collected data on more than 600 U.S. cloned animals and their offspring. Scientists examined a range of considerations, including size, health, blood characteristics and behaviour of cloned animals, according to the report. The study also said nutrient levels in meat and milk from cloned animals were comparable with traditionally bred animals.

"The data show that healthy adult clones are virtually indistinguishable" from traditionally bred animals, the report said.

The FDA said it plans to build a database containing information on the health of new cloned animals.

Consumer groups, including the Consumer Federation of America, have argued that more precautions should be made to protect the safety of the food supply. They say food products made from cloned animals must be separated and labelled.

"We can change things permanently in an animal, and in their offspring, and it doesn't get even as much review as an antibiotic would that just affects them for two weeks. This just doesn't make sense," said Jaydee Hanson of the Center for Food Safety.

CBC's Alison Smith said consumers will not be able to tell whether meat or milk found on American store shelves has come from cloned animals because the U.S. government won't require product labelling beyond what currently exists.

Consumers opposed to cloned animal products, however, will have the option to buy organic.

"The rules are that any animal that produces certified organic food must not have cloning in its ancestry," Smith said.

Analysts note it could be years before any products from cloned animals may be available in stores. Currently, it costs between $10,000 and $20,000 to produce a cloned animal.

Last week, the European Food Safety Authority approved meat from cloned animals for consumption. 

Food from cloned animals is forbidden for sale in Canada, but Health Canada officials last year said they were waiting to evaluate the FDA's findings.

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