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Clone on the Range

The government ponders whether cloned farm animals are fit for human consumption.

Critics of cloning and genetically modified food can relax. For now. It appears that it could be years before cloned meat appears on dinner plates in the United States. Although a U.S. Food and Drug Administration report recently announced that food from cloned animals is probably safe, an advisory committee said there is not enough data to be certain. The FDA usually follows the advice of such boards.

If the FDA is true to character, those in the business of cloning farm animals will have to wait for the payoff that once seemed so close in a country that consumes more beef, pork, and poultry than any other nation. Generating more data will mean generating more cloned animals, and that will require more capital. Agbio outfits including ViaGen, a subsidiary of Exeter Life Sciences, and Cyagra, an Advanced Cell Technology spinoff, will doubtless find their investors more skeptical now than they were just a few years ago.

Pigs; Copyright © 2004 Acumen Sciences, LLC, All Rights Reserved.Indeed, if the market for cloned cows, hogs, chickens, and turkeys never materializes, investors can hardly blame regulators and cloning skeptics. The proposed price for a cloned cow is $19,000. The hope was that ranchers and farmers would see cloned livestock much the way breeders see a prizewinning steer: as a valuable source of predictable progeny. Ranchers could clone just a few, or even one, of their top cattle, engendering better offspring. Nice theory, but it�s still an expensive shift at a time when profit margins on the ranch are at historic lows.


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