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Bill pending in California Legislature would require companies to label cloned food

Steaks, pork chops, milk and other products from cloned livestock would have to be clearly labeled on grocers' shelves under a bill pending in the California Legislature.

If passed, the requirement could be more stringent than U.S. federal rules. The Food and Drug Administration is poised to give final approval to meat and milk from cloned animals without any special labeling, though a bill introduced in Congress would require it.

State Senator Carole Migden said consumers deserve to know what they're buying and to be able to decide if they want to eat food from cloned animals. That is especially true because the long-term consequences of eating artificially produced animals cannot yet be studied, she said.

"Wouldn't you like to know if you're drinking milk from a cloned cow, or feeding your children pork chops from a somatic cell nuclear transfer event?" Migden, a Democrat from San Franciso, asked during a news conference last week before the Senate Health Committee voted 6-4 along party lines to support her bill. A similar bill has been introduced in the California Assembly.

Migden was flanked by organic dairy farmers and other supporters wearing cow costumes and carrying placards that read "Not Milk - Cloned food is coming but you can stop it."

She said the bill isn't designed to undermine the Food and Drug Administration but noted the agency's problems in approving and regulating painkillers.

"They're an overburdened agency and not always 100 percent correct," she said. "They've been duped before on ... Celebrex and Vioxx."

The California Cattlemen's Association and other industry groups oppose the legislation.

"We're sort of a little ahead of ourselves," said Matt Byrne, the association's executive vice president. "There's no meat or milk from cloned animals on the market, and there's no expectation that this will be an issue any time soon."

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