After years of study, the Food and Drug Administration says it sees no reason cloned livestock and their offspring cannot be used for food. The ruling comes in spite of opposition from some consumer groups and concerns by the food industry.

The decision was not unexpected, as the agency had telegraphed its intentions as it completed work on the seven-year study.

According to a summary of the final report posted on the FDA Web site, the government is not advocating or requiring any special labeling for products from cloned animals. Left unclear is when a voluntary moratorium on the use of cloned animals will be lifted.

More than 30,000 people ranging from consumers to industry trade organizations -- filed comments with the FDA on the proposed lifting of the moratorium. Many lawmakers also expressed reservations, with Congress passing a measure urging the FDA to carry out more studies before making its decision.

The agency, apparently, saw little reason for further study.

Safe to eat

"The FDA has concluded that meat and milk from clones of cattle, swine and goats, and the offspring of clones from any species traditionally consumed as food, are as safe to eat as food from conventionally bred animals," the FDA concluded in its report.

But the report appeared to be cause for concern among dairy processors, who fear a consumer backlash against dairy products that might contain milk from cloned animals. Connie Tipton, President and CEO of the International Dairy Foods Association, said the FDA needs to take its time on the matter.

"Nothing is more important to milk processors than the trust people have in milk and milk products," Tipton said. "That is why we urge the FDA to listen to the more than 30,000 comments the agency has received over the last year and take the time to respond to their comments and concerns before allowing milk from cloned cows into the food supply."

By approving a "niche technology" too soon, Tipton argues, the government agency risks unintended negative economic, trade and public health impacts.

Consumer groups also appear overwhelmingly against allowing cloned animal products into the food supply. Last month when the Senate added language to the Fall Bill instructing the FDA to slow down on the issue, Joseph Mendelson, Legal Director of the Center for Food Safety, applauded the move.

"The FDA's flawed and cavalier approach to cloned food and its potential impacts called for a truly rigorous scientific assessment," Mendelson said. "At a time when the FDA has repeatedly failed the public, this amendment will ensure that the American consumer is considered before any special interest."