WASHINGTON (DTN)--The Japanese farm ministry said Aug. 13, beef and milk from cows cloned from the cells of adult animals are safe, signaling Japan may lift a ban on their consumption in the near future.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries said its recent study found cloned cows' blood, meat and milk nearly identical to those of naturally born cows and rats fed these substances developed no irregularities.

The announcement, following a similar conclusion by the health ministry in June 2000, could pave the way for Japan to become the world's first country to allow the consumption of cows cloned from the cells of adult animals.

The cows in question were cloned by transferring the nuclei of cells from adult animals into cow eggs from which the nuclei were removed. The same cloning technique was used to produce 'Dolly' the sheep in 1996.

Cows cloned from fertilized eggs through artificial fertilization have been allowed for consumption in Japan since 1999 but no country allows the consumption of cows cloned from the cells of adult animals due to the high rate of defects in the clones.

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