Cloning could be banned due to welfare concerns

The European Commission has tabled proposals which could result in a ban on cloning technique for farm animals in the EU and its meat, due to animal welfare concerns.

Under the proposed law, both imports and marketing of animal clones could also be banned in a bid to prevent food from clones being put on the market.

However, cloning is not used for food production in the EU today and despite marketing requiring pre-approval under the Novel Food Regulation based on a scientific food safety assessment, no EU or other business operator has applied for authorisation.

The first proposal contains the temporary ban on cloning technique on farmed animals as well as placing live animal clones and embryo clones on the market. The second refers to food such as meat and milk being prohibited from the EU market.

However, cloning will still be allowed for purposes including research, conservation of rare breeds and endangered species or use of animals for the production of pharmaceuticals and medical devices.

EU Commissioner in charge of health Tonio Borg said: “Today’s initiatives on animal cloning respond to animal welfare concerns as well as consumer perceptions on food from animal clones in a realistic and workable way.

“The changes on novel food will create a more efficient system. It will offer EU consumers the benefit of a broad choice of foodstuffs and provides a favourable environment for Europe’s food industry.”

The European Commission confirmed that other EU institutions must consider the proposed legislation and that the draft legislation will not come into force until 2016 at the earliest.

A Defra spokesperson confirmed that it is against the proposal and said: “The UK believes that current controls on cloned animals and animal products are sufficient, and so we are opposed to any further controls.”

Compassion in World Farming’s chief policy advisor Peter Stevenson said the proposal is “cynical” and “designed to fool the public” to believe the problem of cloning is being tackled.

He explained: “In fact, it will be allowing the offspring of clones to be used in EU farming and insisting that consumers will have to swallow meat and milk from the offspring of clones. This food won’t even be labelled."

Stevenson argued that the proposal is a backwards step from the discussion on cloning that happened two years ago as it was then planning to require labelling for such food.

“Now consumers won’t even know if they are eating such food.  Moreover, it is ethically inconsistent to say that cloning is so harmful to animals that it will be banned in Europe, but at the same time EU farmers can import the offspring and semen of clones from the rest of the world. I fear that the use of the offspring of clones could rapidly become widespread in EU farms," Stevenson added.