EU cautious on US plan to milk cloned cows

By Chris Mercer

- Last updated on GMT

Debate on whether to approve milk from cloned cattle for general
consumption in the US is unlikely to be replicated in Europe in the
near future, because consumers would reject the products.

The European Dairy Association said there were no plans to get dairy foods from cloned animals approved for consumption in the EU.

Its comments follow a statement from America's Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that it hoped to draft regulations on milk and meat from cloned animals in the US in the next few months.

Joop Kleibeuker, secretary general of the European Dairy Association (EDA), told DairyReporter.com​: "This is a new development and something that may offer possibilities to improve milk production by cows, but there's no intention as far as I know to have this introduced into the EU in the short or medium term."

He said the EDA had so far not considered the issue in any detail, and was hesitant to jump into a debate that remained highly emotional - bound up with fears over genetically modified foods.

"From a purely scientific point of view, the FDA might be right, it may be safe. But for the time being we don't see acceptance of this from EU citizens, and we are producing products for our consumers."

Consumers groups in the US have already lambasted FDA plans to approve milk and meat from cloned cattle. One, the Center for Food Safety, has called for a nationwide moratorium.

The strong reaction reveals the dilemma dairy firms everywhere might face: do cloning's advantages to breeding outweigh the potential consumer storm such practices could whip up?

One main study published last year, and cited by the FDA, said it found no difference in milk quality, including protein, fat, antibody and lactose content, from cloned cows.

"We are confident in our results,"​ Xiangzhong Yang, who led the study at the University of Connecticut, told DairyReporter.com​. He said the FDA "is interested in our study for sure"​.

More large studies will be important to assess the effects and feasibility of using cloning technology in the dairy industry, he added. Some believe the potential for premature death and abnormalities in cloned animals means the technology does not yet make economic sense for dairy firms.

Still, FDA scientists have repeatedly decided over the last four years that milk and meat from cloned animals is safe for consumption.

And their entry into the US food chain was deemed likely at some stage, according to a report published for the European Commission last year, something the authors warned Europe should watch closely.

Other countries, including the US, Japan, China and Australia were reportedly ploughing research into animal cloning, said the report, completed by the Danish Centre for Bioethics and Risk Assessment as part of the Commission's 'Cloning in Public' project.

"These countries will probably use cloning and allow sales of clone-derived products in their home markets. This will present a challenge to [the] World Trade Organisation (WTO).

"Efforts by EU countries to prevent these products from entering the European common market, with the stated aim of protecting consumer interests, will probably depend on WTO's interpretation of the precautionary principle, and on what the WTO sees as a "legitimate concern"."

EU countries have already been forced to abandon a moratorium on genetically modified foods after the WTO ruled the ban was illegal.

Denmark is the only EU member state with specific legislation governing farm animal cloning. EU guidance on the issue draws on a body of indirect regulations and directives, such as those addressing food safety and animal health, the Danish report said.

Related topics: Markets, Fresh Milk

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