(January 15, 2008) Washington, DC - Today, the Center for Food Safety (CFS) condemned the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) irresponsible determination that milk and meat from cloned animals are safe for sale to the public. In addition, the FDA is requiring no tracking system for clones or labeling of products produced from clones or their offspring. This action comes at a time when the U.S. Senate has voted twice to delay FDA's decision on cloned animals until additional safety and economic studies can be completed by the National Academy of Sciences and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
"The FDA's bullheaded action today disregards the will of the public and the Senate - and opens a literal Pandora's Box," said Andrew Kimbrell, CFS Executive Director. "FDA based their decision on an incomplete and flawed review that relies on studies supplied by cloning companies that want to force cloning technology on American consumers. FDA's action has placed the interests of a handful of biotech firms above those of the public they are charged with protecting."
With FDA's release of their controversial risk assessment today, CFS joins dozens of other food industry, consumer, and animal welfare groups, as well as federal lawmakers in calling for swift action on the part of Congress to pass the 2007 Farm Bill containing provisions delaying FDA's release of clones into the food supply. The Farm Bill currently contains an amendment, advanced by Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-MD.) and co-sponsored by Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA), requiring a rigorous and careful review of the human health and economic impacts of allowing cloned food into America's food supply. The Senate overwhelmingly passed the bill by a vote of 79 to 14.
"The passage of this bill with the Mikulski-Specter amendment sends a strong message that the FDA has failed the public again by taking an inadequate and half-baked look at the safety of food products from cloned animals and their offspring," said Joseph Mendelson, CFS Legal Director. "The FDA's cavalier approach to cloned food and its potential impacts calls for the remedy of a truly rigorous scientific assessment, and Congress has now repeatedly called for such action."
The Farm Bill amendment addresses the gaps and inadequacies of the FDAs current risk assessment, and would go into effect before any food products from clones are marketed. The Farm Bill also directs the USDA to examine consumer acceptance of cloned foods and the likely impacts they could have on domestic and international markets. (Click here for more information on this amendment).
Additionally, the FDA is today issuing a guidance document for food producers; It fails to require any special procedures for tracking or handling food products from clones. It also fails to require labeling of any kind on food products from clones or their offspring, which deprives consumers of their right to know about the origins of their food.
Recently, two cloning companies - Viagen and Trans Ova, proposed the creation of a voluntary cloning registry program. While they advanced claims that the registry would provide consumer protection and transparency without regulation, clones and their progeny will still be dispersed through the food system without any tracking or labeling.
"The cloning industry's proposal is simply another attempt to force cloned milk and meat on consumers and the dairy industry by giving the public phony assurances," said Mendelson. "The proposal neither provides new studies on the safety of clones nor protects the consumers' right to know whether their food or dairy contains products from clones. Once clones are released into America's food supply without any traceability requirements, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to recall them."
Recent opinion polls show the majority of Americans do not want milk or meat from cloned animals in their food. A December 2006 poll by the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology found that nearly two-thirds of U.S. consumers were uncomfortable with animal cloning. A national survey conducted this year by Consumers Union found that 89 percent of Americans want to see cloned foods labeled, while 69 percent said that they have concerns about cloned meat and dairy products in the food supply. A recent Gallup Poll reported that more than 60 percent of Americans believe that it is immoral to clone animals, while the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology found that a similar percentage say that, despite FDA approval, they won't buy milk from cloned animals.
In its risk assessment of cloned food, the FDA claims to have evaluated extensive peer reviewed safety studies to support its conclusion, yet a recent report issued by CFS, Not Ready for Prime Time, shows the assessment only references three peer-reviewed food safety studies, all of which focus on the narrow issue of milk from cloned cows. What is even more disturbing is that these studies were partially funded by the same biotech firms that produce clones for profit.
Read the executive summary of the Center for Food Safety's report Not Ready for Prime Time