By Wenonah Hauter Food & Water Watch, 12.28.06 Straight to the Source By Wenonah Hauter Food & Water Watch, 12.28.06
Statement of Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Food and Drug Administration’s decision to allow the sale of meat and milk from cloned animals is yet another example of the agency’s willingness to disregard safety in the face of industry pressure.
The safety of eating milk and meat from cloned animals is far from proven , with only a handful of studies and little long-term evidence. Concerns about the lack of data on eating food from cloned animals led the National Academy of Sciences in 2004 to state that “the paucity of evidence in the literature on this topic makes it impossible to provide scientific evidence to support this position [that the food from cloned animals should be approved].” But apparently, this skimpy body of evidence is enough for FDA to allow these products onto consumers’ dinner tables.
Aside from human health concerns, many people have ethical objections about cloning animals. A 2004 Gallup poll revealed that 64% of Americans believe that cloning animals for food is “morally wrong.” This strong opposition to the technology makes it even more important that cloned foods are labeled so concerned consumers can avoid them. Yet the FDA is not planning to require labeling of products from cloned animals.
The low survival rate and high number of deformities in cloned animals also raise significant concerns about cruelty to animals. Studies of cloned animals show survival rates as low as five percent and in those that survive, health problems including organ malformation, digestive problems, and weakened immune systems.
We are also concerned by FDA’s apparent unwillingness to consider negative information about cloning. The Associated Press recently reported the story of Greg Wiles, a Maryland farmer who was the first to have a commercial clone on a dairy farm. Wiles has been trying to alert federal officials about a number of health problems experienced by his animals, while complying with the FDA’s voluntary moratorium on placing milk and meat from cloned animals into the food supply. He has attempted over the last several years to bring this matter to the attention of federal regulators, only to be rebuffed in his attempts to have his cloned animals fully evaluated and used in research.
Numerous ethical and safety concerns about cloned food products were cited in a petition filed with FDA by a number of public interest groups in October. The petition called on the agency to enact a moratorium on foods produced from cloned animals and establish rules for reviewing food safety and environmental impacts before these products are sold to consumers. The petition also called for the establishment of a committee to advise FDA on the ethical issues involved.
Rather than allowing cloned products to be sold to consumers, the agency should take the actions requested in the petition. It is too soon for this controversial technology to be unleashed in the marketplace.
If meat and milk from cloned animals do reach the marketplace, Congress should instruct FDA to require labeling so consumers have the information they need if they wish to avoid eating this poorly understood new technology.