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Consumers Union and the Center for Food Safety said yesterday that they have sent a letter to members of the California Legislature as well as to California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, challenging Schwarzenegger’s veto of a state bill that would have required that products made from cloned animals, or the progeny of cloned animals, be labeled as such.

Schwarzenegger vetoed the bill last month. The two groups pledged to support the introduction of new legislation during the next legislative session that would, if it became law, have much the same effect.

According to reports, Schwarzenegger’s veto was because of his opinion that the California bill was superseded by federal law, but the two activist groups maintain that federal law only covers meat, not dairy – and it is widely expected that dairy products from cloned animals will be the first to hit the market if, as expected, federal regulators give the go-ahead.

"Governor Schwarzenegger's veto is a slap in the face to a majority of consumers who say they want milk and meat from cloned to be labeled," said Elisa Odabashian, Consumers Union’s West Coast Director, in a prepared statement. "Without labeling, not only will consumers be unable to choose whether or not to buy cloned food, but government food safety agencies will be unable to track any long-term impacts of cloned food on human health."

According to a recent survey by Consumers Union, more than 89 percent of Americans want food from cloned animals to be labeled.

KC's View:
There is the ability to be completely transparent about issues like this one, but there simply is not the will. I don't understand it. We ought to label everything and let the consumer decided what he or she wants to buy based on full information.

I was in Kansas City this week giving a speech to the National Agri-Marketing Association (NAMA), and had the opportunity to chat with someone from the audience who disagreed with me on this issue. Part of the opposing argument is that if you say “made from cloned animals” on the label – or “includes genetically engineered material,” for that matter – it has the tinge of negativity, which can hurt the products.

No doubt. But that just means that the companies selling these products have to do a better job of making their case. Easy? No. But that ought to be the price of admission, and if they can’t persuade consumers that their products are worth buying, then that’s the real problem.

Besides, companies don’t control the flow of information anymore. Consumers do. Bloggers do. And information about these products is likely to get out there anyway…and it may be incorrect, partially because companies tried to play things so close to the vest.

Transparency isn’t only the best policy. In the end, it may be the only policy that creates – rather than diminishes – consumer trust.