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The Washington Post reports this morning that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is expected to rule fairly soon that milk and meat from cloned animals is safe for human consumption, a conclusion that seems to be supported by most scientific evidence.

“Fairly soon,” however, is open to interpretation. The FDA has been looking at the issue for three years, and won’t talk to the Post about its plans or schedule. But analysts say there are suggestions that FDA is preparing to finalize its rules about cloning, with the policy under review “at higher levels of the Bush administration.”

Regardless of the timing, though, there remains much concern about whether US consumers are willing to eat or drink products made from cloned animals. The Post writes that “that many Americans are likely to be revolted by the idea of serving clone milk to their children or tossing meat from the progeny of clones onto the backyard grill. This ‘yuck factor,’ as it's often called, has come to light repeatedly in public opinion surveys. Asked earlier this year in a poll by the International Food Information Council whether they would willingly buy meat, milk and eggs that come from clones if the FDA declared them to be safe, 63 percent of consumers said no.”

But here’s the really interesting part that might raise some consumers’ eyebrows:

“Hundreds of cloned pigs, cows and other animals are already living on farms around the country, as companies and livestock producers experiment and await a decision from the FDA.

“The agricultural industry has observed a voluntary FDA moratorium on using the products of clones, but it has recently become clear that a few offspring of cloned pigs and cows are already trickling into the food supply. Many in agriculture believe such genetic copies are the next logical step in improving the nation's livestock.”

It also has to be noted that it isn’t actually cloned beef that would be eaten by consumers, because cloned animals are too expensive to butcher. The meat that would make it to market would be the offspring of cloned animals…which sort of creates the impression that it might be a photocopy of a photocopy.
KC's View:
We don’t worry too much about the “yuck factor.” We once ate jellyfish in Singapore, and since then have been willing to eat almost anything. (Except, of course, egg salad and Brussels sprouts. But that’s another commentary.)

We do think however, that if cloned animals are going to make their way into the food chain, they absolutely have to be labeled. It would be a real mistake to try and slip this stuff onto supermarket shelves incognito.

What really is called for is some sort of broad education program that tries to create understanding among the public about cloning technology and what it means in terms of solving world hunger issues and keeping the food supply both safe and plentiful.