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Smithfield rejects cloned pork

By Lorraine Heller , 23-Nov-2007

Smithfield Foods, a leading US pork firm, has said it will not produce pork from cloned animals because the technology is still too new.

The company's statement - which has been applauded by The Center for Food Safety, a primary campaigner against cloning - places Smithfield amongst the growing number of companies that have rejected the technology. "Smithfield Foods is not planning to produce meat products from cloned animals. The science involved in cloning animals is relatively new. As thoughtful leaders in our industry, we will continue to monitor this technology," said the company. The controversial technology looks set to be approved for use in the nation's food production channels, further to a risk assessment conducted by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) earlier this year. However, consumers have not showed signs of warming to the idea of eating food produced through cloning, and such concerns have prompted food firms to confirm they will not be using the technology in their production. Dean Foods, Stonyfield Farms, Organic Valley, Ben & Jerry's and Straus Family Creamery are amongst those that have pledged not to accept milk from cloned cows. A recent national survey commissioned by the International Food Information Council (IFIC), found that 50 percent of American consumers have an unfavorable view of cloning, while 28 percent remain neutral. And a recent survey by the Consumers Union found that 89 percent of Americans want food from cloned animals to be labeled. But despite concerns raised by consumer groups and even industry, meat and milk from cloned animals is poised to soon enter the American food chain - the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) earlier this year said it would likely make a decision on food from cloned animals by December 2007. In December 2006, FDA issued draft guidance on the use of the practice in food production. According to its assessment of the available scientific evidence, the agency said there are no additional safety risks posed by the technology when compared to other assisted reproductive technologies currently in use in US agriculture. The agency recently told that it is in the process of updating its cloning risk assessment (RA) and reviewing public comments. "There is no estimated timeframe on when this will be finished," it said. Smithfield on Wednesday told that even if FDA confirms its position on the safety of food from cloned animals in the update of its risk assessment, Smithfield would not reconsider its position against the technology. The company also said its decision is not a result of consumer concerns. "Throughout our long history we have been very diligent and measured in making decisions that affect our customers and our reputation. Our focus remains on the development and improvement of our meat products through careful selective breeding and genetic research," it said. The Center for Food Safety (CFS) issued a statement saying that: "It is very encouraging when a company that has pushed for this technology now says that they agree with our concerns about this untested science." According to CFS, Smithfield previously funded the pig cloning company Prolinia, and continued to support cloning efforts after Viagen, the leading pig cloning company, acquired Prolinia in 2003.

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