Legislation was introduced in the Senate yesterday that would insure the exclusion of food products from animal clones or their progeny under U.S. organic standards.
While organic rules clearly exclude cloning on several grounds, the biotechnology industry has attempted to raise uncertainty about the status of products from clones as organic foods. The legislation introduced today by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Herb Kohl (D-WI) would codify without exception the exclusion of milk, meat or other food products from clones or their offspring from the U.S. organic program.
“The intent of the organic law is to insure the highest animal welfare standards and safe organic food for consumers, and food from clones fails on both counts,” said Joseph Mendelson, Legal Director for the Center for Food Safety (CFS). “FDA should withdraw its plan to approve cloned food, but in light of the agency’s proposal, we welcome this legislation to insure that organic food remains the safest food on supermarket shelves.”
After the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced its plan to approve food from clones in December, organic advocates quickly noted that such products would be excluded from organic production under current rules. However, biotechnology industry spokespeople have recently stated that they believe that cloned food should be permitted in products labeled as organic. While the National Organic Program (NOP) announced last week that clones would not be allowed under organic standards, the question of the progeny of clones remains unanswered. The Department of Agriculture has not taken up the issue of clones' offspring, and is reportedly planning to assemble an advisory panel to consider the issue.
Despite this, it is clear that the rules governing organic food production prohibits use of clones. A recent paper for the nonprofit Organic Center by a former Director of the National Organic Standards Board clearly outlines the exclusion from organics of products from clones. In his paper, “Is the FDA’s Cloning Proposal Ready for Prime Time?,” (PDF)University of Minnesota’s James Riddle notes that organic production excludes products that make use of cell fusion, a technique often used in animal cloning. The National Organic rule states that cell fusion and other methods are used to “influence [an organisms] growth and development by means that are not possible under natural conditions…and are not considered compatible with organic production.” The use in cloning of artificial hormones to induce labor is also prohibited in organics.
Under organic rules, animals must be provided with care that promotes their “natural behaviors,” including reproductive behavior, and must establish and maintain preventative livestock health care practices. But cloning clearly precludes natural reproduction. Further, defects in clones are common, often with horribly painful outcomes for animals. By its
nature, therefore, cloning cannot meet the rules for health required to meet organic standards.
The text of the bill is not yet published and has not been assigned a bill number. We will update this post when this happens.