Japan to study safety of cloned animals for food

Cloned goats are displayed at the Shanghai Wild Animal Park on the outskirts of China's financial hub January 30, 2003. REUTERS/Claro Cortes IV

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan will study the safety of cloned animals for food, after a report concluded there is no biological difference in the meat and milk of cloned and non-cloned cattle, officials said on Wednesday.

“The safety commission has been asked to deliberate on the matter,” an Agriculture Ministry official said.

It was not immediately clear how long it would take for the Food Safety Commission, Japan’s food safety watchdog which will be looking into the issue, to reach a conclusion. “There is no prior case that we can compare it with,” an official with the commission said. He said the safety of cloned cattle and also pigs would be studied.

Many Japanese consumers, notoriously sensitive to food safety, are likely to oppose moves to introduce meat or milk from cloned animals into the human food supply, however.

The farm ministry official said Japan has been breeding cloned cattle since 1998.

As of September last year, a cumulative total 535 cloned cattle had been bred in Japan, all for research purposes.

The United States is ahead of Japan as it has already made a final risk assessment.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration ruled in January that food from cloned cattle, hogs and goats and their offspring is as safe as other food, opening the door to bringing the meat and milk from cloned animals into the food supply chain.

U.S. industry sources have said, however, it could take four or five years before clone-derived food becomes widely available to consumers.

Reporting by Miho Yoshikawa, Editing by Michael Watson