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A Track of the Clones

The Food and Drug Administration is soon expected to make room on the dinner table for products sourced from cloned animals. Everyone expects the idea to get the green light, given that regulators issued preliminary approval last year.

Dolly the SheepBut shoppers and many in the food industry are far from convinced. Nearly two thirds of consumers say they don’t like the idea of ingesting milk or meat from clones, according to various polls. Washington, in response, passed an amendment in this year’s farm bill that delays the FDA’s decision until further testing can be done.

“Before we allow cloned animals in our food supply, we must know more about it,” said Senator Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., who forwarded the amendment.

The cloning industry also has a response to the skepticism. Yesterday two of the countries leading cloning companies, ViaGen and Trans Ova, announced the implementation of a tracking system that will use electronic ear tags to follow cloned animals throughout the supply chain. Doing this, they say, will support marketing claims for retailers and manufacturers regarding whether or not a steak or jug of milk came from a cloned animal.

“This enables the food industry to segregate cloned animals from the food supply, should they choose to do so,” said Mark Walton, president of ViaGen.

But the system only goes so far. It’s voluntary (“mandatory from the perspective of our customers,” according to Walton); it also doesn’t cover the progeny of cloned animals, which are the ones that end up getting slaughtered (the actual clones are too expensive to lose). Walton said they don’t have to extend the label to cover subsequent generations because “the offspring of cloned animals are not clones.”

Technically, that's correct. Intuitively, it might be a tough sell.

Consumer and retailer confidence surrounding the cloning issue is a must. That’s why it’s up to the food industry to demand a competent labeling system that will create transparency and a true market of choice.