Elisa Odabashian, Director
West Coast Office
Good morning. My name is Elisa Odabashian. I am the West Coast Director of Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports.
Consumers Union strongly supports SB 1121, which would require food derived from cloned animals to be labeled in California. There is still much to be learned about this radically new technology, and the long-term impacts of consuming cloned food are still unknown. Without labeling, tracking adverse health impacts from cloned food will be impossible, and consumers won’t have any way of knowing if they are eating meat or milk from cloned animals.
Last session, Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed this bill, saying that the FDA had not yet come to a conclusion about the safety of cloned food. Now, the FDA has determined that cloned food is no different than that from traditionally-bred animals, and therefore can be marketed without labeling. We believe the FDA’s risk assessment was faulty, based on only a handful of clones—43 dairy cows, 16 beef cattle, and 5 hogs—too little data to allow the marketing of these new products without labeling. Cloned animals are often very sickly, severely deformed, and must be treated with antibiotics. Most of these animals don’t survive to their first birthdays. The FDA gives assurances that only healthy cloned animals will be put into the food supply. But the recent recall of 143 million pounds of beef—the largest beef recall in history—showed that sick cows (in that instance, cows too sick to walk to slaughter) do get into the food supply, despite a ban on such practices and despite USDA inspections.
In 2007, Consumer Reports conducted a national, random sample telephone survey of consumers across America. We asked two questions about people’s attitudes toward cloned food. The first question was, “How concerned are you about eating milk or meat from cloned animals.” Overall, 69 percent of those polled were concerned about eating food derived from cloned animals. Our second question was “Do you agree or disagree that cloned milk and meat should be labeled?” An overwhelming majority, 89 percent, agreed that food from cloned animals should be labeled. The results of this survey did not vary much between geographical regions of the U.S.
There are now a dozen states that have introduced legislation to label cloned meat and milk. We applaud Senator Migden for continuing to beat the drum in favor of California consumers’ right to know which products on store shelves are produced from cloned animals, and their power to choose whether or not to buy food derived from this radically new, untested technology.