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6-Regulation: U.S. FDA unlikely to label cloned animal meat and milk

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TITLE:  US FDA unlikely to label cloned animal meat, milk
SOURCE: Reuters, by Randy Fabi
DATE:   Jun 26, 2003

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US FDA unlikely to label cloned animal meat, milk

WASHINGTON - U.S. consumers will most likely not know when they buy
hamburgers, bacon and milk products from cloned animals, a technology
that could be available by next year, government and industry officials
said yesterday.

John Matheson, regulatory review scientist at the U.S. Food and Drug
Administration, said the agency would not require labels on cloned animal
products if they are considered as safe as traditional food.

"If we find no problems with the products, we have no legal basis to
require labels or have companies differentiate between them," he said at
an annual biotech industry conference.

Cloned animals, such as cattle, sheep and poultry, can be farmed to
provide more milk or eggs than their counterparts. Researchers also can
enhance the nutritional value of food, including lowering cholesterol in
eggs and leaner meat with enhanced vitamin content.

A cloned calf can sell for as much as $82,000.

The FDA was expected to release its risk assessment concerning the new
technology later this summer. The report will be the foundation for new
FDA guidelines, which could allow these products to be available by next year.

"These products are perfectly safe," said Steven Stice, chief scientific
officer of Georgia-based ProLinia Inc. "There's no need for labels."

The privately owned company, which sells cloned cows and pigs, was in
discussions with mega-pork producer Smithfield Foods Inc., Stice said.

Last year, the National Academy of Sciences found no significant health
risks from cloned animal products. The report did recommend stronger U.S.
government oversight to ensure its safety.

Joe Mendelson, legal director for the Center for Food Safety, said it
hoped FDA would allow consumers to make a choice on whether to purchase
cloned meat.

"I certainly think consumer views are material and should be a legal
basis for labeling," he said.

How consumers react to cloned animal meat could significantly influence
the commercialization of future biotech products.

Erik Forsberg, vice president of Wisconsin-based Infigen Inc., said
consumer acceptance of cloned animal meat would help alleviate fears
surrounding xenotransplants. The privately owned company produces cloned
cows and pigs in hopes of selling its organs for human use.


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