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AGRICULTURE REPORT - US Agency Says Cloned Animals Safe to Eat

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This is the VOA Special English Agriculture Report.

The United States government wants to know what the public thinks about its findings on the safety of cloned animals.

Cloned dairy cows Cyagra, left, and Genesis at a farm in Maryland
Cloned dairy cows Cyagra, left, and Genesis at a farm in Maryland

The Food and Drug Administration says meat and milk from clones of adult cattle, pigs and goats are safe to eat. An F.D.A. official called them "as safe to eat as the food we eat every day."

And when those clones reproduce sexually, the agency says, their offspring are safe to eat as well. But research on cloned sheep is limited. So the F.D.A. proposes that sheep clones not be used for human food.

The United States this year could become the first country to approve the sale of foods from cloned animals.

First, however, the public will have ninety days to comment on three proposed documents. On December twenty-eighth the F.D.A. released a long report, called a draft risk assessment, along with two policy documents.

The agency says it must receive comments by April second. The F.D.A. seemed ready to act several years ago, but an advisory committee called for more research.

For now, the government will continue to ask producers to honor a request that they not sell foods from cloned animals.

Clones are still rare. They cost a lot and are difficult to produce.

Some people think farmers might find it difficult to export products from cloned animals. Critics question the safety. Animal rights activists also have objections.

The F.D.A. says most food from cloning is expected to come not from clones themselves, but from their sexually reproduced offspring. It says clones are expected to be used mostly as breeding animals to spread desirable qualities.

Public opinion studies show that most Americans do not like the idea of food from cloned animals. But this research also shows that the public knows little about cloning.

Cloning differs from genetic engineering. A cell taken from a so-called donor animal is grown into an embryo in the laboratory. Next, the embryo is placed into the uterus of a female animal. If the process is successful, the pregnancy reaches full term and a genetic copy of the donor animal is born.

The F.D.A. sees no scientific reason to require special labels on products that involved cloning. But companies could identify products as "clone-free," if statements do not suggest that one product might be safer than another.

And that's the VOA Special English Agriculture Report, written by Jerilyn Watson.

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