Back in 1996 controversy erupted over the initial attempt to clone Dolly, the now-famous ViaGen legacy sheep. That controversy is beginning all over again with former ViaGen President Scott Davis’ present attempts to bring Dolly’s relatives to a grocery store in your neighborhood.
Davis was recently appointed president of Start Licensing, a new Austin, Texas-based company formed by collaborative efforts of the Geron Corporation and Exeter Life Sciences. Start Licensing will manage and license a broad portfolio of intellectual property rights related to animal reproductive technologies, and anxiously awaits the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) decision regarding the approval of cloned livestock meat and product sales.
Davis expects that the FDA will rule in his favor, referring to an announcement the agency made back in October of 2003, declaring that food from cloned animals and their offspring was as safe as conventional food. Davis says that scientific data support this finding, and that cloned meat does not pose a risk to consumers.
The FDA will continue to research the safety of consuming cloned livestock and released a statement noting that it “has been reviewing an ongoing study on the safety of animal clones and their offspring in the human food supply, but it is premature to discuss our findings or to make any final determinations due to the complexity of the issue.”
Davis and his fellow industry leaders are getting anxious. “Further delays could devastate the industry, which is still four to five years away from selling cloned animal food,” Davis wrote to the FDA. “There were a number of companies that were in this business and now we are only two or three. If a decision isn’t forthcoming, it’s going to put people in a very difficult financial situation.”
According to Carol Tucker Foreman, food policy director for the Consumer Federation of America, the FDA is very aware of the moral and ethical concerns of cloning animals to be consumed. “Some people are revolted by the notion of cloned animals,” says Foreman.