Apr 252005
 
Authors: Hallie Woods

Through advancing genetic research, the possibility of eating meat from two genetically identical animals awaits an impending decision from the Food and Drug Administration.

Livestock businessmen, along with genetic-cloning researchers, are beginning to examine the benefits of serving meat from cloned animals. In fact, Steve Mower, director of marketing for the genetic company Cyagra, said more progress and information awaits the impending FDA decision concerning the safety of cloned meat.

Although costly, cloning would allow farmers to no longer risk that an animal is born without favorable genetics and quality cuts of meat. Farmers would be able to select a superior animal, genetically clone it and sell the same high-quality meat for a higher price. Genetic cloning would also allow farmers to reduce the number of unwanted or inferior animals for their particular trade, according to a 2003 newsletter from the FDA.

Several large livestock cloning companies are already progressing to make meat cloning a reality. Companies such as Viagen, Cyagra and Exeter Life Sciences are all awaiting the FDA's decision to further advance the livestock cloning trade.

A new company, stART Licensing Inc, has also been created to provide licensing and managing for property rights related to companies in the animal reproductive technology field.

"We see great potential for animal biotechnology both in human health and agricultural product applications and a parallel opportunity for providing enabling technology rights to companies developing these products " said Jonathan Thatcher, chief executive officer of Exeter, about the new stART company.

The cloning process begins with DNA taken from the desired animal in order to produce a genetic twin. That genetic information, or the nucleus of the cell, is placed in an unfertilized egg or oocyte. The fertilized egg is then placed in the uterus of a surrogate mother, where it will turn into a fetus. The cloned animal is exactly like the original in every gene in its genetic makeup.

"We take a small skin biopsy and create a skin line which has the DNA of the animal and then create a genetic twin," Mower said.

However, one of the significant reasons the new cloned meat method has not increased in popularity is the high cost of cloning an animal, according to a FDA newsletter.

The cost to produce a cloned animal is approximately $20,000 per each animal, according to an FDA newsletter.

Dr. John Scanga, assistant professor of animal sciences, thinks the genetic cloning process will be economically inefficient.

"The process seems way too expensive and infeasible to do it," Scanga said.

However, cloning companies and agriculturists will await the FDA's decision before further progress and decisions are made.

Scientists produced the first cloned mammal in Scotland in 1996. Dolly, the cloned sheep, led a pathway for the cloning of cattle, goats, mice, rabbits, pigs and cats.

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