Scientists describe cloned livestock as genetic twins born at different times. Cloning companies say it's just another reproductive technology, such as artificial insemination.
Others aren't so sure. So when the Food and Drug Administration gave food from cloned animals its stamp of approval this week, the announcement raised a few eyebrows.
In a long-awaited report, the Food and Drug Administration this week proclaimed animal cloning does not affect the safety of meat or dairy products. Cloning for agricultural purposes is primarily used for breeding top-of-the-line animals like high-production dairy cows and prize-winning steers.
The biotech industry and USDA characterize the cloning procedure as yet another form of genetic breeding.
Bruce Knight, USDA: "Cloning is another breeding technology that has now been proven safe. It is helpful in creating genetic twins of the very best animals who can transmit superior characteristics to their offspring and more quickly improve our nation's herd."
After six years of scientific research and public comments, the federal government's decision has come with substantial controversy. One of the most contentious issues surrounds the FDA's decision not to require labeling for cloned products.
Fearing a consumer backlash against cloned meat and milk, the National Farmers Union called the decision "potentially devastating for family farmers." The Consumer Federation of America blasted the FDA's decision as a "roll-over to the pro-cloning juggernaut" and said "The message to American consumers is, if the FDA says it is safe, you have to eat it."
But while the FDA ensures the safety of cloned milk and meat, USDA officials are encouraging a transition time to determine the best method for marketing cloned products.
Bruce Knight, USDA: "USDA is encouraging the technology providers to maintain their voluntary moratorium on sending milk and meat from animal clones into the food supply during this transition time."