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New animal clone regs urgent, say MEPs

By Rory Harrington , 12-May-2011
Last updated on 12-May-2011 at 13:33 GMT

The European Parliament has urged Brussels to come up with new measures on animal cloning as a “matter of urgency” to secure consumers rights after a failure to reach an agreement on the issue six weeks ago derailed the entire novel foods regulation.

During the same debate in Strasbourg yesterday, one MEP also claimed that an internal memo from the European Council contradicted claims from the European Commission and its president that banning food from cloned animals or its offspring would breach WTO rules and lead to a trade war.

Basic right

EP president Gianni Pittella made the call following the breakdown of conciliation talks between its members and the Council meant the Novel Food Regulation – three years in the making – had to be scrapped.

The impasse was triggered by the failure between the two bodies to reach a compromise on food from cloned animals. MEPs were insisting that food labels specify whether the product contained food from cloned animals or their offspring.

In plenary debate, Pittella said the absence of an agreement meant the sale of food of cloned animal origin would continue to be permitted in the EU without labelling requirements.

He called on the Commission to come forward with a legislative proposal as a matter of urgency and said labelling information on cloned animals was a “basic right” for consumers. The failure of talks "postponed the chance for consumers to have clear information on what they eat", added the Parliament president.

Commissioner John Dalli told MEPs yesterday in the debate: “The Commission is ready to come up with a comprehensive proposal after the necessary impact assessment.”

Conflicting legal opinion?

Rapporteur Kartika Liotard also claimed that legal advice from the Council during the doomed negotiations in March had contradicted statements from the Hungarian Presidency and the European Commission that Parliament's position would flout international trade regulations.

The Dutch MEP said an internal memo from the Council suggested a ban of food from cloned animals could be justified under international law.

"The bans of food from offspring cloned animals and of food from offspring of clones could be justified on the basis of consumers' ethical considerations", the Council memo advised, she said.

Liotard asked if the legal opinion had been properly circulated among Member States in Council.

A representative of Hungarian Minister Enikő Győri replied genuine concerns about the ban and international trade rules had also been cited in Council legal opinions.

FoodProductionDaily.com contacted the Council but did not receive a complete reply prior to publication. However, the Council confirmed the legal document “was properly circulated among member states”.

“This document is not a secret one but was indicated as ‘LIMITE’,” added the Council official. “This means that there are actually restrictions in the circulation of this document but delegations are not covered by these restrictions.”

Frederic Vincent, the Commission’s health and consumer policy consumer spokesman, declined to comment on the claim over the conflicting legal opinions.

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