Migden introduces bill to require cloned-food labels 

Meat and milk from cloned livestock could reach supermarket shelves by this spring, but under current laws there may be no way for consumers to know it.

With the debate about the ethics of cloning raging on, the idea of eating meat from cloned animals may be distasteful to some consumers. Carole Migden, D-San Francisco, and some consumer advocates argue that it should be clearly labeled to give those consumers a choice.

On Tuesday, Migden introduced Senate bill 63, which would require any meat from cloned animals or from the offspring of clones to be clearly labeled as such, as a notice and potential warning to California consumers.

"Since every apricot or apple we eat is labeled, we want consistency, and I believe the public wants to know what they’re eating," Migden said. "We believe the public should be informed and triply assured that the products are safe."

On Dec. 28, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration released a preliminary report that said meat and milk from cloned animals is safe for human consumption.

"The draft risk assessment has determined that meat and milk from clones and their offspring are as safe as food we eat every day," said Dr. Stephen F. Sundlof, director of the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine in a statement about the findings.

The FDA asked the meat and dairy industries to hold off from introducing products involving cloning to the market until after it has reached a final decision.

The agency is taking public comment on the report’s findings through April 2.

"We don’t agree with the FDA’s ruling that there is no difference between milk and meat from cloned and noncloned animals," said Elisa Odabashian, director of the Consumers Union West Coast office.

Odabashian said the Consumers Union sees no benefit to the public from cloned meat, and there could be far-reaching health hazards from eating it.

"If you don’t label it, if someone has an allergic or health problem after consuming the meat from a cloned animal ortheir progeny, they wouldn’t know what it was from," Odabashian said.

Regardless of possible hazards or benefits from the cloned products, Migden and Odabashian said it is important that consumers know what they are buying.

"There are a lot of folks that feel this is an ethical issue, and if you don’t give them the opportunity to vote with their pocketbook by labeling, you’re not being fair to them," Odabashian said.

SB 63 will be discussed in committee as early as March, and could be signed into law by Jan. 1, 2008, if the FDA chooses to allow cloned meat and milk products in supermarkets.

E-mail Jason Goldman-Hall at jgoldman@examiner.com.

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