MELISSA BLOCK, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
And I'm Robert Siegel.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced today that meat and milk from cloned animals is safe to consume. The FDA says food from clones is no different from what we're already eating. In a moment, more on the FDA's decision.
First, though, what some people at grocery stores around the country have to say.
Mr. RAY HUBLEY(ph) (Resident, New York City): I don't really understand why the food from a cloned animal would be bad to eat.
Ms. KIM JORADIA(ph) (Resident, Chicago): I don't feel like it's correct. I wouldn't want to buy meat if I knew it was through cloning. You don't know what the long-term effects can be of that for our system. I don't feel comfortable with that.
Mr. MARK MONTECINOS(ph) (Resident, Chicago): It's funny we were just talking about this, me and my wife. And her comment was we are not buying food that comes from a cloned animal. Somehow in her mind, in a weird way, it sounds a little grotesque.
Ms. VANS GARRY(ph) (Resident, Washington, D.C.): It doesn't seem moral or ethical or any of that practical or any of that stuff to me, you know. So I guess that's all I got to say about it.
SIEGEL: That was Ray Hubley of New York City, Kim Joradia and Mark Montecinos of Chicago, and Vans Garry of Washington, D.C.
Now, NPR's Dan Charles has the details of the FDA's decision and reaction from some of the people it affects.
DAN CHARLES: Today's announcement was good news for Karen Shoff(ph) in Barron, Wisconsin. Some years ago, the Shoffs had a cow named Black Rose.
Ms. KAREN SHOFF (Resident, Barron, Wisconsin): And she was a really good cow. She's kind of what we call one of those once in a lifetime cows that seems to put it all together.
CHARLES: In 1997, Karen Shoff and her husband Bob heard that scientists had created a genetic copy of a sheep, a clone named Dolly. And their thoughts turned to their prized cow.
Ms. SHOFF: We knew Black Rose was at some time going to leave us, you know, and you just look for that opportunity and almost really it felt like a responsibility to be able to somehow continue working with this line of genetics.
CHARLES: The Shoffs contacted a newly founded cloning company, ViaGen, in Austin, Texas. And now, they own a clone of Black Rose. But the Shoffs don't sell the milk from their clone. There's no law against it, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration asked them not to. The FDA wanted to examine whether it was safe.
Today, the agency announced it is. Randall Lutter is the FDA's deputy commissioner for policy.
Dr. RANDALL LUTTER (Deputy Commissioner for Policy, U.S. Food and Drug Administration): The meat and milk from cattle, swine and goat clones are as safe to eat as the food we eat every day.
CHARLES: Lutter said FDA scientists looked at the chemical makeup of the milk and meat. They monitored the health of cloned animals and they're convinced food from clones is exactly the same as what consumers are eating already.
So the FDA won't require labels on food from clones. In fact, Lutter says, it can't.
Dr. LUTTER: We lack authority to mandate labels of food as being from clones because we find that there's no scientific difference.
CHARLES: Still, FDA officials today made a distinction between cloned animals and their offspring. The offspring can now be treated like normal farm animals. But the FDA wants livestock producers to continue keeping milk and meat from the actual clones off the market for now.
The reason is many people, including important trading partners, want nothing to do with animal cloning. And the reasons go way beyond food safety. Margaret Mellon, a biotech critic from the Union of Concerned Scientists, says cloning harm some animals. Many clones don't survive. Some are born abnormally large which can injure their surrogate mothers.
Dr. MARGARET MELLON (Food and Environment Program Director, Union of Concerned Scientists): Finally, there is this really big issue that animal cloning is a stepping stone to human cloning.
CHARLES: Mellon says she thinks all animal cloning should stop until there's been a chance for more people to debate the need for this technology and also its risks.
The cloning company ViaGen though is looking forward to a surge of orders. The company's Leah Wilkinson says when people come to them, inquiring about making a clone, the first question has been whether the FDA will declare clones safe.
Ms. LEAH WILKINSON (Director, Industry Relations and Policy, ViaGen): So we are happy today that we will be able to answer those questions of - with an affirmative confirmation of safety.
CHARLES: Congress though may also weigh in. The Senate has already voted, asking the FDA not to approve foods from cloned animals until there's been more study. But that legislation hasn't yet passed the full Congress. It's also still not clear whether consumers will accept this technology and let food with a clone in its family tree onto the dinner table.
Dan Charles, NPR News, Washington.
SIEGEL: And you can read highlights from the FDA's report at npr.org.
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