Foods from cloned animals could enter the US food supply by the end of the year, despite calls for further review of the long-term risks of such products.
The outcome currently lies with Congress and its decision to review an amendment to the 2007 Farm Bill.
Amendment 3524, introduced by Senators Mikulski and Specter, calls for more information on food products from cloned animals, with specific focus on elements that have not been addressed by the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) initial risk assessment.
FDA in December issued draft guidance on allowing meat and milk from cloned cows into the food chain. According to its assessment of the available scientific evidence, the agency said there are no additional safety risks posed by the technology when compared to other assisted reproductive technologies currently in use in US agriculture.
The regulator collected a multitude of comments during a 120-day comment period that closed in May this year. It said it planned to review these and would likely make a decision on food from cloned animals by December.
However, FDA said that it is in the process of updating its cloning risk assessment (RA) and reviewing the public comments.
"There is no estimated timeframe on when this will be finished," it said.
Opposition to the approval of clone foods has been raised by scientists, health groups, consumer advocacies and even industry, sparking a fierce debate that shows no signs of abating.
At the forefront of this is the Center for Food Safety (CFS), a non-profit science-based public interest group, which earlier this year released a review of the FDA's risk assessment.
The report said that the assessment was based on "flawed assumptions and misrepresented findings", and claimed that FDA found virtually no scientific evidence to support the commercial release of these experimental foods.
"Animal cloning is a new technology with potentially severe risks for food safety. Defects in clones are common, and cloning scientists warn that even small imbalances in clones could lead to hidden food safety problems in clones' milk or meat. There are few studies on the risks of food from clones, and no long-term food safety studies have been done," the group states on its website.
In response to such concerns, the proposed amendment to the Farm Bill calls for studies that would evaluate the health effects of allowing the commercialization of milk and meat from cloned animals.
A major aspect of FDA's plan that has invited significant opposition is that the labeling of meat and milk products from cloned animals would not be required. Consumer concerns at this level are reflected in a number of state bills that have been recently introduced calling for labeling of cloned food products.
Bonnie - the sentence in bold is the most important. If allowed to be put into the food supply, I want cloned food labeled, as I do carbon monoxide treated meat, virally adulterated food, irradiated food, etc. As a consumer, I want to choose. If we are not granted the opportunity to choose, one of your few remaining options is to buy exclusively organic.