Lest anyone dream that life will get significantly better for farmed animals instead of significantly worse, as genetic modifications and industrialized production operations intensify and globalize to meet the "demand" of billions of humans for trillions of animal products in their food, here's a reality check. There is No Limit to what the "food" animal industry - producers and experimenters - will do to these animals. - UPC Editor
Cloned animals miserable, but safe to eat
By Maggie Fox in Washington
January 16, 2008 02:11pm
CLONED animals may often be born deformed and die young but scientists, who have looked at every aspect of their biology to try to explain why, can find no evidence that it would be dangerous to eat them.
None of the more than 700 studies reviewed in detail showed any evidence to suggest that milk or organ or muscle tissue from cloned animals could harm someone who ate it, the US Food and Drug Administration said in its final report on the subject today.
"We have actually done a more in-depth analysis of the meat from cloned animals than has been done ever," said Mark Walton, president of Texas-based farm animal cloning firm ViaGen. In 2002, a National Academy of Sciences panel said there was no reason to believe that meat or milk from cloned animals may be unsafe. But it said the FDA should do a review, and because of the outpouring of opinions and fears about the subject, the agency extended its review for more than a year.
Cloned calves had died from respiratory, digestive, circulatory, nervous, muscular and skeletal abnormalities, as well as because they had abnormal placentas, the FDA said.
And researchers have looked at all the possible causes of these abnormalities - changes in the genes, in other parts of DNA that affect what genes do and the process of cloning itself.
They have looked at whether the surviving animals have unusual levels of hormones such as the stress hormone cortisol or growth hormones. They have looked at whether their milk contains altered levels of fat or fatty acids, and they have fed animal products from clones to mice and other animals to see if there are any health effects.
Animals are cloned using somatic cell nuclear transfer - a process in which an egg cell is hollowed out and the nucleus from an ordinary cell from the animal to be copied is put inside.
An electric or chemical charge is used to start the egg growing and dividing as if it had been fertilised by a sperm.
This process itself can cause changes in the development of the embryo, fetus and young animal. Not all the same genes are turned on as are active during normal sexual reproduction, studies have found.
But if the animal survives more than a few months, it appears normal in most ways, the studies indicate.
"As part of the process of evaluating meat and milk from cloned animals, we and USDA (the US Department of Agriculture) looked at a group of cloned animals and we looked at more components of muscle tissue and of meat than normally is looked at," Mr Walton said.
"This is one of the most rigorous food safety reviews ever conducted," said Jerome Baker, chief executive of the Federation of Animal Science Societies.
As the FDA ruled today that food from cloned animals was safe, the Agriculture Department asked the cloning industry to extend a voluntary ban on marketing food from the animals ban during a transition period.
Even so, it was unlikely people would eat food directly from a cloned animal - they were more likely to be used as breeding stock, with cloning used to reproduce animals with desired characteristics, animal cloners said.
And any sexually produced offspring would be even more normal than their parents, the FDA and the scientists agreed.
Margaret Mellon, director of the Food and Environment Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists and a critic of the approval, agreed that the food itself was unlikely to be dangerous.
"It seems to me that the food safety risks are very remote," Ms Mellon said.
"The question is how sure you have to be about the safety of the technology when you are moving it into society against a tidal wave of consumer as well as trade concern."
United Poultry Concerns, Inc.
PO Box 150
Machipongo, VA 23405-0150