for National Geographic News
The announcement last week by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that products from clones are safe to eat has reignited debate over the safety and ethics of animal cloning.
After analyzing hundreds of peer-reviewed publications, the FDA deemed that milk and meat from cloned livestock and their offspring are no different than regular meat and dairy products sold in the U.S.
Gary Weaver, of the University of Maryland Center for Food, Nutrition, and Agriculture Policy in College Park, says cloning technology could improve the overall quality of supermarket products.
"When I buy steaks it's always a gamble," he said. "You can have two that look the same, [but] one is tender and the other is shoe leather."
With cloning "in ten years we might all be eating prime beef for a reasonable price."
Only 3 percent of U.S. beef is currently labeled as prime—the government's highest rating. Such high-quality meats are found mostly in upscale restaurants.
Many consumer groups argue that FDA's evaluation of cloned meats hasn't been thorough enough.
What's more, the groups say, the practice of cloning still raises too many ethical issues, including the possibility that large corporations could patent the genes of food animals.
George Siemon is CEO of the Organic Valley farmers cooperative in LaFarge, Wisconsin, which represents 922 farmers in 27 states.
"Allowing animal cloning to be patented by profit-driven companies has too many unknown risks," Siemon said. "[It] is a detriment to farmers and the future of our food supply."
A report with the U.S. government's final say on the controversial issue is expected by the end of this year.
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