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[SANET-MG] cloned cows not wanted
Here-to-fore FDA has only dealt with scanty and incomplete information.
In spite of a great deal of public opposition it is likely that FDA will
decide in favor of the highest bidder.
Dairy Industry Skeptical About Cloned Cows
Updated: Monday, Jul. 11, 2005
By FREDERIC J. FROMMER
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) - As the Food and Drug Administration considers whether
to lift a voluntary ban on selling food from cloned animals, the agency
is getting some resistance from an unusual source: the dairy industry.
Trade groups for farmers and companies that use dairy products are not
enthusiastic about introducing milk from cloned cows into the
marketplace, fearing consumers would be leery about the products.
"There's a strong general feeling among our members that consumers are
not receptive to milk from cloned cows," said Susan Ruland, a
spokeswoman for the International Dairy Foods Association, which
represents food manufacturers that use dairy products.
Cloning is the creation of an animal from the DNA of a single parent to
create an offspring genetically identical to the parent.
"This seems to be one of the things where technology seems to drop
something in the lap of the food companies," Ruland said in a recent
interview. "It's not driven by the market or any benefit to the consumer."
A 2002 Gallup poll found that 66 percent of American consumers said that
cloning animals was "morally wrong." A March survey by the International
Food Information Council, an industry trade group, reported that 63
percent of consumers would likely not buy food from cloned animals, even
if the FDA determined the products were safe.
Last month, the National Milk Producers Federation, representing dairy
farmers, approved a position statement that it "does not at this time
support milk from cloned cows entering the marketplace until FDA
determines that milk from cloned cows is the same as milk from
conventionally bred animals."
Because cloning a cow is expensive, about $20,000, selling meat from a
clone wouldn't be financially viable. The main commercial benefit would
be to sell milk from the clone of a prized cow, or for breeding purposes.
The dairy groups' position is at odds with the biotechnology industry
and the small number of farmers who have invested in cloning cows.
Barb Glenn, director of animal biotechnology at the Biotechnology
Industry Organization, predicted that cloning will benefit both
consumers and producers. "With any new technology, you'll have groups
concerned about it," she said.
Bob Schauf, a dairy farmer from Barron, Wis., about 90 miles east of
Minneapolis, cloned his prize-winning Holstein about four years ago,
making four copies _ one of which died because of complications while
calving earlier this year.
Schauf called the ban "ridiculous. It's a phobia more than anything
scientific. We need to get FDA to come along and say it's fine. They're
as normal as any other animal. Common sense has to take over soon."
Because the FDA has asked farmers not to sell products from cloned
animals, Schauf feeds the milk to his family and employees. He said he
has other elite cows that he'd like to clone but has held off because of
the government action.
In 2003, the FDA issued a summary of its draft risk assessment, which
found that food from cloned animals was probably as safe as that from
non-cloned animals. But it asked farmers to refrain from selling
products from cloned animals until a final determination is made.
Earlier this year, a study by the Center for Regenerative Biology at the
University of Connecticut found that meat and milk from cloned animals
is essentially identical to that of non-cloned animals.
Aside from the health issues are questions about animal welfare, because
cloned animals die in higher numbers during pregnancy and right after
birth. A National Academy of Sciences panel looking at cloning raised
the issue in a 2002 report.
The Humane Society of the United States urged the FDA to keep the ban in
place. In a letter June 28, President Wayne Pacelle wrote that cloning
"carries too high a cost with regard to animal suffering, yet offers
little benefit to humans and animals alike."
Greg Wiles, a dairy farmer in Hagerstown, Md., has made two clones from
a prolific Holstein. One is healthy, but the other suffers from health
problems that Wiles declined to specify.
"I have said the FDA is more than welcome to get any blood or tissue
samples," Wiles said. "I think it needs to be looked into."
Wiles said he often thinks about disregarding the ban and selling the
milk, which he now pours down the drain. "I think the FDA has taken too
long to determine if it's safe or not," he said.
The FDA declined an interview request for this story, saying in a
statement that it would be "premature to discuss our findings or to make
any final determinations due to the complexity of the issue." It added
that the agency does not have a timeframe for a final decision.
One of the cutting-edge animal cloning companies, Infigen of DeForest,
Wis., ceased operations last year while waiting for the FDA to issue
such a decision.
At the time, Infigen blamed delays in federal grants and funding
cutbacks by a partner. But the company's co-founder and president,
Michael Bishop, said the FDA delay was a fatal blow.
"It's hard to find people who want to do business with you when a
government agency could possibly regulate against the food products
entering the food chain," Bishop said. He predicted that cloning will
never become viable for commercial livestock.
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