Despite Safety Data, Americans Largely Find Idea Unappealing
By Rick Weiss
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, December 25, 2006; Page A16
Consumer advocates and others have complained bitterly in recent years that the Food and Drug Administration has veered from its scientific roots, making decisions on controversial matters -- such as the emergency contraceptive "Plan B" -- on political rather than scientific grounds.
Now comes a test of just how rational the public wants the FDA to be.
Later this week, the agency is expected to release a formal recommendation that milk and meat from cloned animals should be allowed on grocery store shelves. The long-awaited decision comes as polling data to be released this week show that the public continues to have little appetite for such food, with many people saying the FDA should keep it off the market.
The FDA decision is based on a substantial cache of data from rigorous studies, all of which have concluded that milk and meat from cloned animals is virtually identical to such products from conventional animals. Scientists have also been unable to detect health problems in laboratory animals raised on clonal food.
By contrast, studies have found that consumers' discomfort with the idea of eating food from clones is largely based on vague emotions. Indeed, polls have repeatedly found that the public understands little about what cloning really is.
That raises the issue: Should decisions such as this one be based solely on science, or should officials take into account public sensitivities, which may be unscientific but are undeniably real?