Government officials today reconfirmed that milk and meat from cloned animals are safe to eat—though the Food and Drug Administration also asked industry leaders to continue to refrain from actually putting the products on supermarket shelves.
"The food safety issues have been resolved," says Bruce Knight, the Department of Agriculture's under secretary for marketing and regulatory programs. The next steps, he explains, involve conversations with the cloning technology providers, food producers, processors, and retailers to ensure the "orderly marketing" of meat and milk from clones. A pause, he thinks, will help soothe concerns—including the public's queasiness—"about transitioning this technology into the market."
There is no guarantee that products from clones or their offspring are not already in the food supply. The FDA's existing voluntary moratorium is not legally binding, nor is there a system in place for industry members to report noncompliance. Stephen Sundlof, director of the agency's Center of Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, notes, however, that there are "only a few" producers using the cloning technology right now and that the FDA works very closely with them. There are "some 30 million cattle processed each year," he says, "and only around 370 cattle have been cloned thus far."