FDA Greenlights Sale of Cloned Food Products On Tuesday, the Food and Drug Administration approved the sale of meat and milk from cloned pigs, cattle and goats. The FDA's approval raises questions of bioethics and ultimately the public's willingness to trust these products. NPR science correspondent Dan Charles gives Farai Chideya an update.
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FDA Greenlights Sale of Cloned Food Products

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FDA Greenlights Sale of Cloned Food Products

FDA Greenlights Sale of Cloned Food Products

FDA Greenlights Sale of Cloned Food Products

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On Tuesday, the Food and Drug Administration approved the sale of meat and milk from cloned pigs, cattle and goats. The FDA's approval raises questions of bioethics and ultimately the public's willingness to trust these products. NPR science correspondent Dan Charles gives Farai Chideya an update.

FARAI CHIDEYA, host:

This is NEWS & NOTES. I'm Farai Chideya.

How would you feel about eating a hamburger if you knew that the meat came from a cloned animal? Earlier this week, the Food and Drug Administration brought that day a little closer. It said that meat or milk from cloned animals is just as safe as what's on the shelf today.

We've got NPR science correspondent Dan Charles with more.

Hi.

DAN CHARLES: Hi. Nice to be here.

CHIDEYA: So the FDA said it had studies clones, decided that food from them was no different than what we get from other animals. Is there a consensus on that?

CHARLES: Well, there is the narrow question of the food safety and then there's the broader question about how people feel about cloning and feel about eating food from clones or the offspring of clones. You know, there is no - you have to put it sort of the other way around. There's no strong evidence - there is no convincing evidence that there is any health issue with food from clones.

Now, the clones themselves - you know, it's clear from - that the cloned animals, the ones that survive - and a lot don't survive - they are different in various ways. There has been some sort of messing around with their genetic machinery. But by the time they're adults, if they survived through that point, that all seems to have been sort of sorted out. And when it gets passed on to the next generation - according to the FDA, all of that sort of unexpected - all these unexpected phenomena that you see sometimes in cloned animals disappears and goes away.

So, you know, it seemed - not too many people actually disagree really strongly with the conclusion that's just on the food safety.

CHIDEYA: Now, the FDA asked the livestock industry to continue a voluntary moratorium on putting some of these meats and milks on the shelf. Why was that?

CHARLES: Well, that's the interesting thing. The FDA says that it can only make decisions based on the data, on the science. And so that's why they say they have no authority to ask for or compel labeling of food from clones because they say the, you know, the food is identical.

But at the same time, they made this recommendation that the livestock industry hold off on putting the actual food from the clones themselves, not the offspring, but just the clones, putting it on the market. That's basically because they worry about market reaction. A lot of people feel kind of queasy about it. And they worry about the reaction from foreign trade partners.

CHIDEYA: Well, you mentioned an interesting thing. There's the clones and then there is the offspring of the clones. Are people actually going to be eating food soon from the offspring of clones?

CHARLES: You know, it's pretty funny, some people already are. I talked to a farmer in Wisconsin who's had a cloned cow for many years now, and that clone has had calves, and the calves have been sold, and I'm sure those calves are producing milk somewhere and no one's really tracking them. So in very small numbers, they are already.

Now, into - to build up to larger numbers to really be a significant part of the food supply, that would take some years. And it's not clear it's even going to happen because a lot of people in the food industry, you know, would rather not rock the boat too much. They do worry about consumer reaction.

CHIDEYA: Well, Dan, thanks for the information.

CHARLES: Thank you.

CHIDEYA: Dan Charles is NPR science correspondent. He joined us from NPR studios in Washington, D.C.

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