The European Commission has proposed a ban on cloning of farm animals and the use of their meat and milk for food.
Under current EU regulation, food from cloned animals is not banned but would have to seek novel foods approval – however, no applications have been made to market such food.
The new proposals would temporarily ban cloning of farmed animals as well as the marketing of live animal and embryo clones. A second proposal would ban the marketing of meat or milk from animal clones in the EU.
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."
Meanwhile, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has concluded that there is no safety concern over food from cloned animals.
However, European consumer organisation BEUC said that the new draft directives would do little to change the status quo, as they do not apply to the offspring of cloned animals.
“The offspring of clones are off-limits to the proposal, which instead focuses on meat from clones themselves,” said BEUC director general Monique Goyens. “No farmer would ever make meat out of a €100,000 clone. Cloned animals are instead used for reproduction purposes, not to end up on our plates.”
In March 2011, an impasse between the EU Council and the Parliament over food from cloned animals and their offspring led to the rejection of three years of discussions over ways to make the novel foods procedure simpler and faster.
European Parliament wanted a ban on meat from both cloned animals and their offspring, whilst member state ministers insisted that such a ban should only apply to cloned animals and not their offspring.
Had the novel foods regulation passed into EU law, it would have been the first in the world to explicitly prohibit the use of meat from cloned animals.
BEUC said the new draft directives were nearly identical to these earlier proposals.
“If Europe is to open the floodgates to meat from the offspring of clones, the least it can do is to allow consumers a choice by labelling such foods,” it said, citing a 2008 EC survey that found 83% of consumers would want to see it labelled.
The Council and Parliament must now consider the proposals, with any legislation due to take effect by 2016 at the earliest, the Commission said.