Most consumers would consider cloned meat, says study

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Risk assessment, Cloning, Fda

With the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) poised to release a
risk assessment that is expected to declare food products derived
from cloned animals safe for the food supply, a new study has found
that these products would be accepted by the majority of American
consumers.

One third of consumers said they would buy meat and milk from the offspring of cloned animals, one third said they would consider buying it once they found out more, and one third said they would never buy it, according to research commissioned by animal breeding firm ViaGen.

There is currently no regulation preventing cloned food from entering the nation's food supply. But ViaGen has voluntarily withheld its products until the FDA endorses the findings of a National Academy of Science (NAS) report it commissioned in 2002 that declared cloned products safe for human consumption.

When the FDA issues its risk assessment report, cloned animal products will become part of the food supply, without the requirement for such foods to carry special labeling.

In the FDA's draft risk assessment, which drew on over 100 scientific studies and was published in 2003, the agency concluded that "the current weight of evidence suggests that there are no biological reasons to indicate that consumption of edible products from the clones of cattle, pigs, sheep or goats poses a greater risk than consumption of those products from their non-clone counterparts."

The ViaGen consumer poll, which was conducted by KRC Research last month, revealed that few people were aware that cloning could be used as a reproductive technology that might be used to breed farm animals for food.

"It is hard to predict consumer behaviour from polls, especially when they know little about the issue,"​ said Dr Mark Richards of KRC Research.

"Before the introduction of rbST, a genetically engineered bovine growth hormone that increases milk production in cows, experts predicted up to a 20 percent drop in milk consumption. But milk consumption levels were not affected at all,"​ he told FoodNavigator-USA.com.

Around two thirds of consumers who took part in KRC's study said that animal cloning would be acceptable in order to improve the overall health of animals used for food and to improve the nutrition of meat and milk.

Indeed, if cloning were to become common practice in the food industry, farmers would be able to breed desirable traits into their herds resulting in made-to-measure meat products.

NAS has pointed out that consumers would get better food because clones have "increased genetic merit for increased food production, disease resistance and reproductive efficiency."

However, criticism of the practice is still strong, with dairy farmers and beef and pork producers also concerned about levels of consumer acceptance.

The FDA said it continues to work on a draft risk assessment and proposed risk management plan for animal clones, adding that both documents will be released for public comment.

"Until the Agency has had the opportunity to review public comments and issue a final risk assessment and risk management plan, we are asking clone producers and breeders to continue to voluntarily refrain from introducing meat or milk from clones into the food or feed supply,"​ said the FDA's Linda Grassie.

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