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General News    H4'ed 8/22/10

Is Meat and Milk From Clones in the Food Supply?

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It's just a matter of time before we are eating clones, if we are not eating them now.

When Canadian agricultural leaders asked Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack last week after a scandal about unlabeled clone products in Europe if "cloned cows or their offspring have made it into the North American food supply," he said, "I can't say today that I can answer your question in an affirmative or negative way. I don't know."

And when a reporter asked the USDA this week if cloned products are already in the food supply, a spokesman said the department was "not aware of an instance where product from an animal clone has entered the food supply" thanks to a "voluntary moratorium"-- but that offspring of clones, at the heart of the Europe scandal," are not clones and are therefore not included in the transition."

Sounds like Europe is not the only place eating milk and meat from unlabeled clone offspring. In fact, the BBC, UK newspapers and even a US grocer all report that US consumers are digging into clone food, whether or not they know it.

Like bovine growth hormone and Roundup Ready crops, the government says clone products are so safe they don't need to be labeled. But the 2008 FDA report, Animal Cloning: A Risk Assessment and a report from the European Food Safety Authority released at the same time, raise questions about the health of cloned animals, the safety of their milk and meat and even the soundness of the clone process itself. To clone an animal, "scientists start with a piece of ear skin and mince it up in a lab. Then they induce the cells to divide in a culture dish until they forget they are skin cells and regain their ability to express all of their genes," writes the Los Angeles Times' Karen Kaplan. "Meanwhile, the nucleus is removed from a donor egg and placed next to a skin cell. Both are zapped with a tiny electric shock, and if all goes well the egg grows into a genetic copy of the original animal."

So far so good except that it turns out many clones lack the ability to "reprogram the somatic nucleus of the donor to the state of a fertilized zygote," says the FDA report and be the perfect replica a clone is supposed to be.

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Martha Rosenberg is an award-winning investigative public health reporter who covers the food, drug and gun industries. Her first book, Born With A Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp The Public Health, is distributed by Random (more...)
 

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