The US Food and Drug Administration is expected to declare milk and meat from cloned animals and their offspring safe to eat as early as next week, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday.
The federal agency decision would come after more than six years of deliberation on the issue, the newspaper said, without naming its sources.
AdvertisementFDA spokeswoman Kimberly Rawlings told AFP that the food agency "is still working to finalize our risk assessment activities" and that it could not say when the process would be complete.
The FDA ruled in 2006 that milk and meat from cloned cattle, swine and goats were no different from healthy, conventionally bred animals, but has asked producers not to sell products from cloned animals pending a safety ruling.
It previously described cloning as a more advanced form of breeding technology already used in the cattle industry, such as artificial insemination, embryo transfer and in vitro fertilization, the Journal said.
Even if the agency does approve such products, it could be three to five years before US consumers see milk and meat from offspring of cloned animals on store shelves, the newspaper said.
It said that because cloned cattle cost 15,000 to 20,000 dollars per copy, most cloned animals would be used for breeding.
A green light from the FDA would be a milestone for biotech companies that want to center their business on producing copies of prize dairy cows and other farm animals, it added.
Meat or dairy products from cloned animals or their offspring would however likely face deep-seated opposition from consumers groups, some of whom still routinely refer to foods such as genetically-modified corn as "Frankenfood."
"Most consumers do not find this appealing," the paper quoted Marguerite Copel, from Dean Foods Co., one of the top US milk producers, as saying, adding that the company would not sell milk from cloned animals.
The paper said consumer wariness could also lead to a backlash from opponents in US Congress and markets such as the European Union over concerns that it is too early to say for sure if food from cloned animals is safe.
Further concerns center on the higher number of health problems that cloned animals tend to experience at birth, compared to conventionally-bred animals.
The US food industry was divided on the issue, the paper said, with some big food companies saying they are not interested in products from cloned animals or their offspring, while others are actively exploring the possibilities.
Some in the meat industry consider that consumers would come to prefer products from cloned animals, given leaner and larger cuts of meat, it said.
"These animals are not some kind of freaks of nature," James Hodges, president of The American Meat Institute Foundation told the newspaper.
The European Food Safety Authority, the European Union's equivalent of the FDA, would likely deliver its own initial assessment on food from cloned animals next week, but a final decision was not expected for months, it added.
Regulators in countries such as Australia, Canada, France, Japan and New Zealand, which already have livestock clones, although they rarely enter the food chain, would be closely watching the FDA decision, the paper said.
A special European ethics commission was also conducting its own studies on the question of whether cloning is inhumane, it added.