A panel of US scientists has urged more caution on animals engineered to contain genes from other species.

The National Research Council committee was asked by the US Food and Drug Administration to investigate the safety concerns of applying biotechnology to animal products destined for food, reported the New York Times. The committee yesterday [Tuesday] said it had reservations about the safety of food derived from gene-altered animals.

''We were asked to focus on safety concerns, but we don't want to inhibit the progress of biotechnology, because of its many potential benefits,'' said Dr John G. Vandenbergh of North Carolina State University, chairman of the panel. ''We are saying, if you use this technology, do it in a safe manner.''

The 12-member committee of scientists, doctors and other experts is reported as saying its biggest concern about the new technology was the potential of certain genetically engineered organisms to escape and reproduce in the natural environment. Modified insects, fish, shellfish and other animals could easily escape and threaten their natural counterparts. For example, the panel said, gene-altered salmon given the ability to grow at an accelerated rate might compete more successfully for food and mates than natural varieties, causing wild salmon to die out.

The panel said it found no data indicating the products of cloned animals were unsafe, nor did it identify a way something was likely to go wrong to make such cloned animals the source of unsafe food.

But the committee said it had reservations about food from transgenic animals, those that are changed by adding genes of other species or by having existing genes removed or deactivated. Such animals could produce meat with less fat or more protein, eggs with less cholesterol, or milk that contains drugs or vaccines that could fight disease.

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