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Ag and Science Groups Provide Mixed Responses to FDA Clone Statement

Some critics say consumers won't buy the technology, but advocates say there's no difference between clones and conventional livestock.

After a Thursday declaration that cloned and conventional livestock are "virtually indistinguishable" and that products from cloned animals are safe to eat, the FDA said it would accept public comments on the issue over the next 90 days. They didn't have to wait long for the comments to start coming in.

Some critics take issue with the FDA's recommendation that food from cloned animals should not be labeled any differently than food from conventional livestock. The International Dairy Foods Association's Susan Ruland says the introduction of products from clones may turn many consumers off of certain products.

"[Consumers] have concerns about the social, ethical, even religious," she says in a report by Marketplace (California). "And there's also a visceral reaction of, where is my food coming from and the animals and how are they being treated on the farm."

Gregory Jaffe, of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, tagged that visceral reaction a "yuck factor" in a CNN interview, due partly to peoples' tendency to associate animal cloning with human cloning.

Advocates of the technology point out that since clones are virtually indistinguishable from conventionally bred livestock, a label indicating that a food product came from a clone would be misleading.

"We don't want to misinform consumers with some sort of implied message of difference," says Barb Glenn of the Biotechnology Industry Organization. "There is no difference."

BIO and others defending cloning point out that cloned animals are not genetically modified, and the main purpose for clones - for the time being, at least - is for 'breeding, not eating.' The technology would allow producers to duplicate their most productive animals, which can then be bred to improve the overall quality of the herd.

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