Cloned Meat: Not Just for the Future Anymore

There’s Very Big News scheduled for this week on the future of cloned milk and meat in the United States. Admittedly, there’s not a whole lot of suspense about this, since the Food and Drug Administration had tentatively ruled last year that cloned food is no different from what we’ve always been eating. (Specifically, it called cloning simply “a more advanced form” of existing technology like artificial insemination and in vitro fertilization.) But the FDA also asked cloned-livestock companies to voluntarily hold their products from the marketplace.

That’s apparently about to change: The Wall Street Journal reported late last week that the FDA plans to announce that cloned meat and milk are safe for your gustatory pleasure. That said, there’s still time before cloned animals hit the market: Cloned cattle cost up to $20,000 each, so they’ll be used for breeding, not for meat, and the Journal says it’ll be three to five years before their sired meat and milk show up on shelves.

If it ever makes it there, that is: There’s strong consumer sentiment about this, and, as the Washington Post reported, Congress isn’t happy about cloned food. It passed legislation last month “recommending that any such approval be delayed pending further studies,” and the Senate’s Farm Bill “contains stronger, binding language that would block FDA action on cloned food, probably for years.” The FDA’s approval, if it arrives this week, will likely piss off Congress more.

The food industry is split on this: Major livestock companies are gung-ho on cloning, but the Journal quotes Dean Foods, one of the country’s largest milk companies, which has said it won’t sell milk from cloned animals, and Whole Foods, which is worried about the lack of a tracking system that would guarantee clone-free products. It’s worth nothing that the FDA isn’t isolated internationally on this: According to the Post, “New Zealand and Australia have released reports concluding that meat and milk from clones are safe. Canada and Argentina are reportedly close to doing the same.” And even the European Union is expected to follow suit soon.

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