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FDA readies cloning policy

29 November 2006

US - A pending decision by the Food and Drug Administration could allow the sale of meat and milk from cloned animals. It may solve a long-standing frustration for ranchers who can't now reproduce their best steers, but it doesn't mean you'll find a cloneburger any time soon at the local bar and grill.

The FDA expects to release a draft of the new regulations by year's end. Repeated studies by the agency "show that the meat and milk from cattle clones and their offspring are as safe as that from conventionally bred animals," the FDA said.

Despite those studies, some modern Luddite groups oppose any cloning of agricultural products. But farmers have actually practiced "reproductive cloning" for thousands of years by using cuttings from plants to grow genetically identical offspring. Strawberries and some grasses even clone themselves naturally by sending out runners.

Only in recent years, however, has cloning technology reached the point where it can be used for cattle and other mammals. Still, at a price of about $20,000 per animal, cloning is far too expensive to be used to put food on your table. Instead, it will be used to reproduce breeding animals with highly desirable traits.

That could mean good news for the breeders of champion steers at state fairs or stock shows. Steers are castrated as calves, before their championship qualities may be apparent - an action that precludes breeding those qualities into future generations the way horse breeders can with prize stallions.

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Source: Denver Post

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