Farmed Animal Watch: Objective Information for the Thinking Advocate
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JANUARY 5, 2007 -- Number 1, Volume 7


1. FDA SAYS FOOD FROM CLONES IS SAFE

The U.S. could become the first country to allow meat and milk from cloned animals to be sold as food. Having studied the matter for five years, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced on December 28th that cloned cows, goats and pigs are “virtually indistinguishable” from noncloned animals, and that milk and meat from them and their offspring “is as safe as the food we eat every day.” Officials from the agency said they did not have enough information to determine whether food from sheep clones is safe.

Due to the high price of clones, they would primarily be used for breeding purposes with their offspring instead being used for food (see: http://tinyurl.com/ylb5mo ). Cloning has always been legal but the FDA has since 2001 requested that industry voluntarily refrain from selling cloned animal products to consumers. The moratorium is to remain until the FDA finalizes its policy, which may be as early as the end of this year. Milk and cloned animals who are no longer considered productive could end up as human food, and some within industry say the offspring of clones have already gone to slaughterplants.

Opposition
In 2004, the National Academy of Sciences stated the following in regard to the approval of food from clones: “[T]he paucity of evidence in the literature on this topic makes it impossible to provide scientific evidence to support this position.” In late December 2006, a bipartisan group of senators asked the FDA to review new evidence before releasing its risk assessment. Recent public opinion polls regarding animal cloning cite ethical, religious and social concerns. In a September poll by the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology, 64% of respondents said they were uncomfortable about such food (see also: http://tinyurl.com/y24bcm ). "While the FDA says no one has proved there is any danger from clones, the burden should be on the FDA to prove convincingly that they are safe," said Joseph Mendelson of the Center for Food Safety.

Animal Suffering
The FDA’s announcement has also been denounced by other consumer advocacy groups and by animal protection organizations, which note that more than consumer safety is at issue. They point out that animal cloning is inherently unpredictable and hazardous and has resulted in a high number of painful deformities in the experimental animals' offspring (for example, see: http://tinyurl.com/y5wyxd ). The Center for Science in the Public Interest has released a statement calling for a government forum to address animal welfare and other ethical concerns.

"Cloning poses no unique risks to animal health when compared to other assisted reproductive technologies," said Stephen F. Sundlof, director of the FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine. However, Carol Tucker Foreman, director of food policy at the Consumer Federation of America (CFA), contends that the FDA is ignoring research that shows cloning results in deformed animals and higher death rates than other reproductive technologies. "Our government, in effect, says it is okay to increase the number of suffering animals as long as they don't suffer in new ways," she said. CFA will be asking food companies and supermarkets to refuse to sell food from clones.

Labeling
Foreman also wants food from clones to be labeled as such. According to Sundlof, if food from clones is indistinguishable the FDA doesn’t have the authority to require that it be so labeled. For those interested in labeling food as not having come from clones, he cautioned: "If the statement implies that that particular product might be safer than another product, FDA would not allow that." The National Academy of Sciences has recommended that the government set up a way to identify and track products from clones.

Industry Reservations
“Approval of cloned livestock has taken five years because of pressure from big food companies nervous that consumers might reject milk and meat from cloned animals,” states an Associated Press article. According to The Christian Science Monitor: “Some dairy groups and meat producers have reportedly expressed private concerns that they will loose business if cloned meats and milk work their way into burgers and shakes.” Dairy industry research shows that overall sales could drop 15%. U.S. meat exports could also be affected. The Wall Street Journal reports: “mindful of potential consumer trepidation toward cloning, some large meat and dairy producers and their trade associations were taking a wait-and-see attitude. And a spokesman for Wal-Mart Stores Inc., one of the nation's biggest food retailers, said it had no plans to sell products made from cloned livestock.”

"I think the last thing the industry needs is something consumer activists can use," a beef company executive explained in an industry survey, "There is already enough bad press on natural labeling, using CO (carbon monoxide) for processing, animal rights, so I don't really see this as a positive. I can see the headlines now: 'Frankenstein Beef!'"

90-Day Public Comment Period
The FDA assessment, which consists of a draft risk assessment, a proposed risk management plan and a draft guidance for industry, is subject to a 90-day period during which the public can submit comments on it (deadline is April 2nd). The FDA announcement, assessment, and instructions for submitting comments can be found at: http://tinyurl.com/v5mph

See also:
ASSISTED REPRODUCTIVE TECHNOLOGIES AND FOOD SAFETY IN FARM ANIMALS
Theriogenology, Jan. 1, 2007
http://tinyurl.com/ym5oez


FDA: CLONED LIVESTOCK IS SAFE TO EAT
The Associated Press, Dec. 28, 2006
http://www.cnn.com/2006/HEALTH/12/28/cloned.food.ap/index.html

FDA OK MAY SPARK 'CLONE-FREE' LABELS
Associated Press, Libby Quaid, Dec. 29, 2007
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20061229/ap_on_sc/cloned_food

MEAT AND MILK FROM CLONING ARE SAFE, 2 FDA SCIENTISTS SAY
The Los Angeles Times, Karen Kaplan and Jia-Rui Chong, December 23, 2006
http://tinyurl.com/y5e934

COULD YOUR NEXT STEAK BE A CLONE?
The Wall Street Journal; Jane Zhang, Scott Kilman and Lauren Etter; Dec. 30, 2006
http://www.seacoastonline.com/news/12292006/worldnation-ph-wn-clone.html

FDA: CLONE-DERIVED MEAT, DAIRY 'AS SAFE AS' CONVENTIONAL PRODUCTS
Draft Risk Assessment Addresses Producer Risk Management, Consumer Safety
Agriculture Online, Jeff Caldwell, Dec. 28, 2007
http://tinyurl.com/ylxljm

SENATORS WANT FDA TO DELAY CLONED ANIMAL RISK ASSESSMENT
Dairy Herd, December 27, 2006
http://www.dairyherd.com/directories.asp?pgID=675&ed_id=6041

FDA PLAN WOULD OK CLONED MEAT
The Christian Science Monitor, Peter N. Spotts, December 29, 2006
http://www.csmonitor.com/2006/1229/p01s01-ussc.html


2. SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER EDITORIAL

“As discomforting as most Americans find the idea, the Food and Drug Administration's tentative approval for allowing the sale of cloned meat and milk makes a certain kind of sense. The plan is a logical extension of an industrialized food system that treats plants, animals and nature with an often-reckless disregard.” Thus begins an editorial by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer editorial board, published on New Year’s Eve. It continues: “For animals, it's a system of routine cruelties: docking pigs' tails, clipping chickens' beaks and taking cattle off grazing land to live their lives standing in manure in so-called confined animal feeding operations. It makes sense only to the corporate forces behind the food system that they should be able to make money and create efficiencies by replacing any form of natural reproduction with $15,000-a-shot cloning attempts.”

The piece goes on to quote from the book “The Omnivore's Dilemma,” by Michael Pollan (see: http://tinyurl.com/yacaro ): “E.coli outbreaks spring from raising beef in the stinking cities of confined animal feeding operations, known as CAFOs. Pigs' tails must be docked (with pliers, no anesthetic) because the intelligent animals, prematurely weaned at 10 days rather than the normal 13 weeks to be placed in confinement, try to exercise their instincts by sucking and chewing on one another's tails. ‘A normal pig would fight off his molester, but a demoralized pig has stopped caring,’ Pollan writes. ‘'Learned helplessness' is the psychological term and it's not uncommon in the CAFOs, where tens of thousands of hogs spend their entire lives ignorant of earth or straw or sunshine, crowded together beneath a metal roof standing on metal slats suspended over a septic tank.’ After docking, the remaining stub is so hypersensitive even the most depressed pig will fight back, preventing infection from chewing. That avoids the cost of treatment and the alternative: ‘underperforming production units are typically clubbed to death on the spot.’" The editorial concludes: “If the administration sticks to its plans, consumers will face new dilemmas about their food system, their government's inaction and their own eating choices.”


LIVING FOOD: RECKLESS CLONING
Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Editorial Board, December 31, 2006
http://seattlepi.nwsource.com:80/opinion/297720_cloned.html


3. PRION-FREE CATTLE

Two years ago, cattle lacking prions were genetically engineered by a research team working from South Dakota and Tokyo, according to a recent article in the journal Nature Biotechnology. Prions are proteins that are naturally produced in animals. An abnormal form of them is believed to be the agent responsible for “mad cow disease” (a.ka., bovine spongiform encephalopathy: BSE). Of the 12 calves initially produced, three have been killed to confirm that their brains did not become infected after exposure to BSE prions. The surviving animals are now being directly injected with BSE. It can take as long as two years for the disease to be detected in infected animals. At least three years will be required for additional testing to see if the cattle remain prion-free and whether the absence of prions causes any problems. (Other research has suggested they may be crucial for processes ranging from blood formation to memory.)

Prion-free cows could be used to produce cow serum, a substance popularly used for many biological experiments. The Washington Post reports: “They were created so that human pharmaceuticals can be made in their blood without the danger that those products might get contaminated with the infectious agent that causes mad cow.” At least 180 people worldwide have died in the last 20 years after eating BSE-infected meat. Similar prion-based diseases also are found in sheep, deer, elk and mink.


USDA RESEARCHERS EVALUATE PRION-FREE CATTLE
ARS News Service, Sean Adams, December 31, 2006
http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/pr/2006/061231.htm

MAD COW-FREE COWS?
Associated Press, Jan. 2, 2007
http://www.komotv.com/news/tech/5055126.html

SCIENTISTS ANNOUNCE MAD COW BREAKTHROUGH
The Washington Post, Rick Weiss, January 1, 2007
http://tinyurl.com/y3vo8h

4. CATTLE VACCINE AGAINST E. COLI O157:H7

A vaccine that prevents E. coli O157:H7 from proliferating in the digestive systems of cattle has been given preliminarily approval by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
The virulent bacterial strain has caused highly publicized human disease outbreaks in the U.S. in recent months (see, for example: http://tinyurl.com/ykxkay and http://tinyurl.com/ukce8 ). The vaccine, which has been tested on more than 30,000 cattle over the last four years, has reduced the shedding of E. coli O157:H7 in their manure by up to 70%. It is expected that the vaccine will be given full license next year. It is also being studied by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.


VACCINE CLAIMS TO HALT E. COLI STRAIN
Newsday, Delthia Ricks, December 30, 2006
http://www.startribune.com/722/story/905875.html

CANADA OK'S E. COLI CATTLE VACCINE
Meating Place, Tom Johnston, Jan. 1, 2007
http://www.meatingplace.com/MembersOnly/webNews/details.aspx?item=17056

 




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Compiled and edited by Cat Carroll and Mary Finelli, Farmed Animal Watch is a free weekly electronic news digest of information concerning farmed animal issues gleaned from an array of academic, industry, advocacy and mainstream media sources.