Delicious cloned-cow meat and milk may be served at table

The American think tanks are pushing a decision to allow the sale of meat and milk from cloned cows and their offspring, according to officials from the government, and industry groups.

The Food and Drug Administration is expected to take a major step toward approval soon, proposing to permit the sales, subject to 60 days of public comment and some additional review.

That could lead to choice cuts of steak and cartons of milk produced from cloned cattle landing in kitchens over the next several years.

Given the high cost of cloning, industry officials and consumer advocates say it's more likely that consumers would be sold the meat -- if not the milk - of offspring of cloned cattle, not of the clones themselves.

''You're not producing them to eat - you're producing them to breed,'' said Scott K. Davis, president of Start Licensing, a joint venture of biotechnology companies that own the licenses for cloning livestock.

Even after the FDA reaches a final decision, livestock producers will need up to four years or more to raise offspring ready for slaughter, and most dairy farmers may ignore the technology until the cost falls, their trade groups said.

Scientific studies support the safety of the food products, but surveys indicate that many Americans remain jittery or harbor ethical concerns.

Some consumer advocates and dairy companies have urged regulators to delay a decision until those fears can be calmed. Yet with studies supporting the food's safety accumulating, the FDA has edged toward approval.

The FDA had said an announcement was likely within the next few weeks, but the recent, surprise resignation of FDA Commissioner Lester M. Crawford may delay it to the end of the year, or even longer.

When the FDA does make an announcement, the agency said, it will release the draft of a report on the safety of eating and drinking from cloned animals and, in all likelihood, tentative rules governing the sale of the foodstuffs.

The FDA said its ruling will encompass cloning of goats, pigs and sheep, as well as cows. Since 1997, Americans have been eating processed foods made with genetically modified vegetables, such as corn and soybeans. But many consumers regard goats and pigs differently from canola and squash, The Miami Herald reports.

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