March 18, 2008
FDA Report finds consumers don't want clones
March 18th, 2008 — A report commissioned by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) shows that the public does not want food from cloned animals, nor would they feed milk or meat from cloned animals to their children, it was revealed today. The report, “Focus Groups on the Public’s Perception on the Health Risk Associated with Products from Animal Clones”, made available under the Freedom of Information Act, was written by the FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine. Despite the results of this focus group report and other reputable surveys showing high consumer concerns and an unwillingness to buy food from cloned animals, in January the FDA issued its risk assessment approving food from cloned animals and their offspring for human consumption without requiring labeling.
The FDA focus group survey, conducted in 2005, states that “more than half of the participants across the board said that they would not want to eat food derived from clones.” This figure is supported by public opinion polls.
Significantly, the FDA survey found that all those “participants who have children said that they would not give such food to their children.” The opinion survey also found:
- Each focus group had serious health concerns; “many participants said that they would like to know the test results of eating products from animal clones on human health.” Participants in all focus groups expressed concerns with the long-term effects of eating food from animal clones and their progeny. The report states that those interviewed were “wary of what would happen in 10 to 20 years.”
- In addition, some participants were concerned “about negative mutations to the genetic makeup of the progeny of cloned animals”, and did not consider the offspring of clones normal. They “described the progeny of an animal clone as a ‘half clone’ or ‘even worse than a clone’”.
- The majority of participants in focus groups said more than once that “they would like to know what specific benefits cloning would offer them, as many did not see any.”
- Participants in each focus group had ethical concerns as well: “They used the term ‘playing God,’ and considered cloning to be an intrusion of nature that ‘cannot bring anything good’”. Many participants said that “They did not see the purpose of cloning farm animals; they were concerned that cloning farm animals is just a step in science that will lead to cloning humans in the future.” A few interviewed “speculated that food products from animal clones might already be on the market and they do not even know about it.”
- The FDA knew that some participants “expect food products from cloned animals and their progeny to be labeled as such.” This assumption by some members may have informed the focus groups’ discussion that food from clones would be identifiable, but no such requirement has been proposed by the FDA or other regulatory agencies.
“Surveys have repeatedly shown that consumers don’t want food from cloned animals,” said Rebecca Spector of the Center for Food Safety. “This just-released information shows that FDA knew from their own two-year-old study that the public did not want food from clones, and wanted labels on milk or meat from clones so that they could avoid them. We currently have an FDA that that no longer acts in the public interest. In fact, they show a complete disregard for public opinion.”
“It’s clear that consumers are wary of cloning,” said Julie Janovsky, director of campaigns at Farm Sanctuary. “And there’s no doubt that animals suffer as a result of this process. These are ample reasons alone to reject cloned products, both in the marketplace and on the farm.”
“The FDA's decision to allow meat and milk from clones to reach consumers without any labeling is even more offensive in light of this evidence that the agency documented consumer concern about this technology,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. “This reaffirms that FDA is more concerned with pleasing the biotechnology industry than in addressing the safety and ethical concerns consumers have about cloning.”
“Part of the FDA's mission is to protect animal health; if the public were aware of how much animal suffering is involved in the cloning process, they'd be horrified,” said Tracie Letterman, Executive Director of American Anti-Vivisection Society. “The FDA didn't even mention animal health in these focus groups, and they are pushing these products on a public that clearly doesn't want it. It doesn't take much to figure out whose interests they're serving.”
Recent opinion polls show the majority of Americans do not want milk or meat from cloned animals in their food. A December 2006 poll by the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology found that nearly two-thirds of U.S. consumers were uncomfortable with animal cloning. A national survey conducted this year by Consumers Union found that 89 percent of Americans want to see cloned foods labeled, while 69 percent said that they have concerns about cloned meat and dairy products in the food supply. A recent Gallup Poll reported that more than 60 percent of Americans believe that it is immoral to clone animals, while the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology found that a similar percentage say that, despite FDA approval, they won’t buy milk from cloned animals.
In addition, in the wake of the of the FDA’s risk assessment clearing clones for use as food, a regulatory vacuum now exists. To fill that void, a number of federal and state bills have been introduced which require that clear and prominent labeling be used on products made from clones and their offspring. At the federal level, the Mikulski Specter Amendment (HR 4855) to the farm bill requires comprehensive testing on the potential long-term health effects of meat and milk from clones and their offspring on humans; HR 992 calls for labeling cloned food products and by-products, and the establishment of a record-keeping audit system for tracking clones; and S 414 requires labels for all cloned food products as well as a record-keeping audit system. In addition, more than a dozen bills being introduced in California, Kentucky, New York, Maryland, New Jersey , North Carolina, Michigan, Massachusetts, Missouri, Tennessee, and Washington are also calling for labeling on food from cloned animals, and in some cases their offspring.
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