FDA Decision on Cloned Food Expected Soon

January 9, 2008

The FDA may soon release its decision on whether it will formally sanction the sale of cloned meat and dairy products, and whether it will require that the products be specially labeled. The announcement could come any day, or be several months off.

One potential timing influence is pending Congressional action. In the Farm Bill, which is still being negotiated, the Senate has inserted language requiring that FDA conduct more studies of cloned foods before making a decision. Congress also included language in the recently approved "omnibus" appropriations bill requesting that FDA continue the current voluntary moratorium on cloned foods, and requiring several more studies. FDA may make its decision before the mandatory language in the Farm Bill action is finalized, which could be weeks or months away.

Another potential influence is European decision-making. A draft document on the position endorsed by the European Union's Food Safety Authority is expected within the next week or two, with a final document possible in several months. FDA may delay its efforts to determine how or whether to make its policies consistent with Europe's.

Recent media coverage has touched on the varied influences behind FDA's potential actions. Examples include:

FDA's December 2006 draft risk assessment concluded that there are no differences between cloned and other forms of a food, and that no labeling of cloned foods is necessary (release).

Critics say the vast majority of the animals produced by cloning die very early, and they question the safety of clones and animals bred conventionally from cloned parents.

If the FDA formally approves cloned foods for sale, they may not show up on shelves for several years. The limited number of animals already available, and their high cost, may push the industry to use those animals solely for breeding stock for a while.

Among the primary companies working on cloned foods are:

On Dec. 18, 2007, the cloning industry announced a voluntary tracking program that would allow other businesses to find out if they were buying food from cloned animals (but not their offspring). Examples of media coverage include:

Many of the consumer groups tracking the issue are noted in a Dec. 18, 2007, Consumers Union press release.

Information on the FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine: Animal Cloning and contact phone numbers.