FDA Animal Cloning Decision Comes Years Too Late

In an invited post on The Hill’s Congress Blog yesterday, I argued that the FDA’s announcement that it had officially found meat and milk from cloned cows, pigs, and goats to be safe for human consumption was welcome news, but way over due. The National Academy of Science came to the same conclusion four years ago. And even FDA had come to that conclusion three years ago; it just stalled for three additional years culling through more data.

Unfortunately, way back then, dozens of American ranchers were naive enough to think that government bodies actually make decisions on the merits and not politics. They started plunking down good money — from $20,000 to $60,000 per animal — to have their best livestock cloned, thinking it would be just a matter of months before FDA gave them the green light to start selling the offspring into commerce. While FDA dallied, those farmers had to sit and watch their very expensive investments go to waste.

One Maryland farmer, named Greg Wiles, is now practically bankrupt and at risk of losing the literal farm as he pours milk from his small herd of cloned dairy cows down the drain. Although no statute or regulation forbids the sale of cloned animals, their offspring, or meat and milk from either, FDA requested several years ago that cloned livestock be kept off the market until the agency’s analysis could be completed. And, as one is apt to do when an agency with practically unlimited discretion over one’s livelihood makes such a request, most of these farmers — Greg Wiles included — have complied. Despite its announcement last week, FDA won’t be lifting this voluntary moratorium until the public has had 90 days to comment and the final risk assessment document is released, which could be as long as six to nine months later.

Of course, Wiles and other clone owners already have the legal right to sell their clones. So, I say, why wait? After all, we don’t live in a Soviet-style country where that which is not mandatory is expressly forbidden. Or, do we?