U.S. Biotech Firm Sees FDA Approving Cloned Meat
WASHINGTON A U.S. biotech company said on Thursday it expected the Food and Drug Administration to soon approve the industry's request to market meat and milk products from cloned cattle and other animals.
The FDA in October 2003 declared food from cloned animals and their offspring was as safe as conventional food. But an FDA panel urged more research be conducted on the new technology, delaying a final decision for more than a year.
Scott Davis, president of Texas-based Start Licensing and co-founder of ViaGen Inc., said scientific data supported an FDA finding that the food did not pose a risk to consumers.
Start Licensing owns the genetic information from Dolly teh sheep, the world's first cloned mammal. Viagen is working with cloned cattle, pigs and horses.
"I would assume it's going to be coming out soon ... and that there has been no change in the direction of FDA's thinking," Davis told Reuters.
The FDA declined to say when its risk assessment would be completed. "It's very premature to make any indication as to what the findings will be as the risk assessment is still ongoing," said spokeswoman Suzanne Trevino.
The nascent industry has voluntarily agreed not to sell any products from cloned animals until the FDA completes its review. After the FDA publishes its risk assessment, the agency said it would take at least another two months before it made a final decision.
Davis said further delays could devastate the industry, which is still four to five years away from selling cloned animal food. There are currently about 300 cloned animals in the United States.
"There were a number of companies that were in this business and now we are only two or three left," he said. "If a decision isn't forthcoming, it's going to put people in a very difficult financial situation.
Consumer advocates have urged the government to consider the moral and ethical concerns of cloned animals when making its decision. "Some people are revolted by the notion of cloned animals," said Carol Tucker Foreman, food policy director for the Consumer Federation of America.
Biotech companies clone animals by taking the nuclei of cells from adults and fusing them into other egg cells from which the nuclei have been extracted. Livestock have already been cloned for sale to producers.