Despite consumer opposition FDA approves food from clones

On January 15th, the FDA announced its final approval of meat and milk from cloned animals. Organic Consumers Association’s action alerts on this issue last year generated tens of thousands of letters to the FDA, but the agency has not changed its mind.

OCA’s biggest concerns with this issue are the lack of proof regarding the safety of cloned food as well as issues relating to sustainability and animal welfare.

On a sustainability level, a healthy population of any animal or plant requires genetic diversity to prevent an entire population falling to one disease outbreak, for example.

In regards to animal welfare, the majority of cloned cattle and other animals are born with painful birth defects.

The upside of this announcement is that it will likely be several years before any of these food products hit the market, due to high costs of cloning. In addition consumers can avoid food from cloned animals by purchasing certified organic foods, which ban cloned ingredients. -Organic Consumers Association

Consumers union calls on Congress to require tracking and labeling of clones for milk and meat

Consumers Union calls on Congress to require tracking and labeling of milk and meat from cloned animals in response to the Food and Drug Administration’s assessment that food from cloned animals is safe for consumption.

“The FDA’s own data show that a large proportion of cloned animals do not make it to their first birthday. Many fail to survive gestation, and others have birth defects such as squashed faces, deformed limbs, and immune deficiencies. Consumers have a right to choose whether they eat milk and meat from clones,” states Michael Hansen, PHD, Senior Scientist with Consumers Union.

“It should be mandatory for clones and their offspring to be tracked and their products labeled in the supermarket,” said Hansen. “If cloning were a new animal drug, its use would be prohibited, since animal drugs must be safe for animals and well as humans. But because cloning is a new reproductive technology, there is no law requiring it to be safe for animals. Having our food come from healthy animals helps the food to be safe,” Hansen states. “There is simply too little data for consumers to be completely confident that eating cloned food is safe.”

A Consumers Union national poll conducted in mid-2007 found that 89 percent of consumers want cloned food to be labeled. The poll also found that 69 percent of respondents were concerned about eating milk or meat from cloned animals.

Legislation to require labeling of cloned milk and meat has been introduced into Congress by Senator Barbara Mikulski and by Representative Rosa DeLauro. Legislation introduced in California by State Senator Carole Migden last year, which passed the legislature but was vetoed by the Governor, will be introduced again this session.

Although the industry indicates that it has so far created only about 600 clones, more will be on the way now that FDA has passed on their safety as food. Even if they are used for breeding, they are likely to enter the food supply at some point. Cows that have completed their useful life either as milk producers or breeders generally are processed for beef burger. “I don’t think they will be buried in the back yard,” says Hansen.

A National Academy of Sciences study indicated a concern that if clones are sickly, they might be more likely to carry bacteria that could infect people. Such bacteria include salmonella and e. Coli 0157:H7. The FDA risk assessment acknowledged it had no data on this question. Consumers Union supports labeling of both clones and their first and second-generation offspring. -Cornucopia Institute, Consumer’s Union

UCLA researchers find anti-Alzheimer’s mechanism in omega-3 fatty acids

Many Alzheimer’s researchers have long touted fish oil, by pill or diet, as an accessible and inexpensive “weapon” that may delay or prevent this debilitating disease. Now, UCLA scientists have confirmed that fish oil is indeed a deterrent against Alzheimer’s, and they have identified the reasons why.

Reporting in the December 2007 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience, now online, Greg Cole, professor of medicine and neurology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and associate director of UCLA’s Alzheimer Disease Research Center, and his colleagues report that the omega-3 fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) found in fish oil increases the production of LR11, a protein that is found at reduced levels in Alzheimer’s patients and which is known to destroy the protein that forms the “plaques” associated with the disease.

The plaques are deposits of a protein called beta amyloid that is thought to be toxic to neurons in the brain, leading to Alzheimer’s. Since having high levels of LR11 prevents the toxic plaques from being made, low levels in patients are believed to be a factor in causing the disease.

Alzheimer’s is a debilitating neurodegenerative disease that causes memory loss, dementia, personality change and ultimately death. The national Alzheimer’s Association estimates that 5.1 million Americans are currently afflicted with the disease and predicts that the number may increase to between 11 million and 16 million people by the year 2050.

The researchers examined the effects of fish oil, or its component DHA, in multiple biological systems and administered the oil or fatty acid by diet and by adding it directly to neurons grown in the laboratory.

“We found that even low doses of DHA increased the levels of LR11 in rat neurons, while dietary DHA increased LR11 in brains of rats or older mice that had been genetically altered to develop Alzheimer’s disease,” said Cole, who is also associate director of the Geriatric Research Center at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

To show that the benefits of DHA were not limited to nonhuman animal cells, the researchers also confirmed a direct impact of DHA on human neuronal cells in culture as well. Thus, high levels of DHA leading to abundant LR11 seem to protect against Alzheimer’s, Cole said, while low LR11 levels lead to formation of the amyloid plaques.

Fish oil and its key ingredient, omega-3 fatty acids (found in fatty fish like salmon), have been a mainstay of alternative health practitioners for years and have been endorsed by the American Heart Association to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Still to be determined, he said, “is what the optimal dose should be. It could be that a smaller amount might be helpful, especially in a place like the south of France, where people are already on a Mediterranean diet.”

Here in the United States, though, where fish consumption is not very high, the dose may need to be higher.

“There’s a deficiency of DHA to begin with,” Cole said, “and this may contribute to the low LR11 seen in many Alzheimer’s patients.”

Funding for the research was provided by a grant from the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. The research was initiated with support from the National Institute on Aging. -www.ucla.edu

Germany set to launch “non-GM” label

The German Agriculture Ministry is preparing to introduce a special label for food that has not been genetically modified, in a move to create greater transparency for consumers.

Agriculture state secretary Gert Lindemann told German broadcaster Deutsche Welle that the new ‘non-GM’ label will apply not only to non-genetically-modified crops, but also to eggs, meat and milk from animals that were raised without biotech feed.

He said the move was aimed to protect consumers’ rights but didn’t specify when the new system would be introduced.

German food manufacturers have, for the last four years, had the option of labeling food containing GM technology traces, although few have made use of the system.

The Bundestag, Germany’s parliament, is expected to approve the law next week, allowing it to be introduced in spring. -Organic Consumers Association, www.justfood.com