The European Commission has proposed a temporary ban on animal cloning for food production in the European Union, at a meeting of the European Commission, Council and Parliament held in Strasbourg on Monday.
The proposals would also temporarily suspend the use of cloned farm animals and the marketing of food from clones, and establish a tracing system for imported genetic material, such as semen and cloned embryos.
The meeting serves as a precursor to future discussion between the European Parliament and the Council with the aim of coming to an agreement on whether food from cloned animals (and their offspring) should be covered by novel foods legislation.
The issue has been a sticking point between the two bodies, with Parliament supporting the establishment of a new law for food from cloned animals, covering ethical as well as safety issues. Meanwhile the Council has supported inclusion of cloned animals under the existing novel foods regulation, subject to future review.
Considering ethical issues
The proposal to instigate a temporary five-year ban comes in the form of a new European Commission report published on Monday, which involved consultations with the European Group on Ethics, as well as stakeholders and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).
The report reiterated EFSA’s opinion first issued in 2008 that in terms of food safety, there is no difference between meat and milk from clones and their offspring and that of conventionally bred animals. But it also acknowledged that there are challenges posed by animal welfare and ethical issues.
Commissioner in charge of Health and Consumer Policy John Dalli, said: “The Communication adopted today is a response to calls from the European Parliament and Member States to launch a specific EU policy on this sensitive issue. I believe that the temporary suspension constitutes a realistic and feasible solution to respond to the present welfare concerns.”
Gianni Pittella, vice president of the European Parliament and chair of Parliament's delegation for conciliation negotiations on the novel foods regulation, said: “MEPs support the introduction of a moratorium – as soon as possible – to guarantee consumer protection in this sector. However there are critical differences in our positions, notably on Parliament's demand to prevent the sale of food not only from clones themselves, but also from their offspring and further descendents.”
The Commission’s report is due to be transmitted to the Parliament and Council by the end of the year, prior to formal discussions on the issue.
Commissioner Dalli underlined that the proposal would still allow cloning for non-food uses, “such as research, conservation of endangered species or use of animals for the production of pharmaceuticals.”