Organic Companies Promise to Remain Clone-Free
By LIBBY QUAID (AP) Food and Farm writer for the Jackson Hole, WY Star Tribune
Cloneburgers won't come with warnings. When the government approves food from cloned animals, expected in the next year, the Food and Drug Administration doesn't plan special labels. Government scientists have found no difference between clones and conventional cows, pigs or goats.
However, shoppers won't be completely in the dark. To help them sort through meat and dairy products, one signal is the round, green USDA organic seal, says Caren Wilcox, who heads the Organic Trade Association.
While many people choose organic to avoid pesticides or antibiotics, Wilcox says the U.S. Department of Agriculture label also means clone-free.
"Organic animal products will not come from cloned animals," she said.
Cloning is taboo to Organic Valley, the country's biggest organic farming cooperative.
"This is absolutely prohibited in our world. It goes against everything we believe," said George Siemon, CEO of the 700-member cooperative. "Organic is based on having plenty with what nature's given us."
"Clone-free" labels are also likely on some nonorganic food, such as ice cream made by Ben & Jerry's Homemade Inc.
Still, it's unclear how much cloning will matter to consumers.
The nation's milk industry worries that people might reject food from clones or turn away from dairy products altogether. But so far, public opinion appears mixed. In a September poll by the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology, 64 percent said they were uncomfortable with animal cloning.
In a December poll by the University of Maryland, the same percentage said they would buy, or consider buying, such food if the government said it was safe...
...Organic is a rapidly growing segment of the nation's food market. Organic sales have grown by up to 20 percent annually; overall growth in food sales is around 3 percent.
Some in Congress want to require labels on food from clones. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., has introduced legislation to require this note on packages: "This product is from a cloned animal or its progeny."
Mikulski and other critics disagree with FDA, which has said labels probably are unneeded because clones and their food are as safe as conventional versions.
"The FDA has gone astray, insisting that anytime they say a food is safe, consumers are obligated to eat it," said Carol Tucker Foreman of Consumer Federation of America.
The dairy industry says the bill would hurt their business.
"A huge burden would be on every single milk, cheese and ice cream company in this country, large and small, to provide 100 percent traceability and segregation and labeling of their milk," said Susan Ruland, spokeswoman for the International Dairy Foods Association.
"This is for a kind of milk that isn't even out there yet and that we're not even sure anyone is going to produce," Ruland said.
According to biotech companies, it may be difficult to promise that food is clone-free...
...The Agriculture Department was asked to address cloning when the organic standards were written, a process that drew comments from more than 300,000 people and organizations. The standards, which took effect in 2002, do not mention clones or their offspring; instead, they say genetic engineering is not allowed.
That is a source of disagreement between the department and the cloning industry.
Department officials say cloning is forbidden in organic animals. The process is incompatible with the standards, says Lloyd Day, head of the Agricultural Marketing Service, which governs the organic industry. The department still must decide whether the offspring of cloned animals are allowed, Day said...
...On the Net:
National Organic Program: http://www.ams.usda.gov/nop/indexIE.htm
Federal Drug Administration: http://www.fda.gov
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