Published in January this year, the Draft Opinion concluded that meat and dairy products from cloned animals are probably safe for human consumption. Nevertheless, cloning has proved to be a contentious issue for industry and consumers alike. Yesterday's meeting was designed to provide an opportunity for stakeholders to be briefed by experts on the Draft Opinion, and to have an exchange of views and feedback. It came as part of the current public consultation period, which is open until February 25. Topics discussed included an overview on the Draft Opinion process, animal cloning in the regulatory context, ethical considerations, and consumer perception of food products from cloned animals. This was followed by an exchange of views, a question and answer session and a number of discussions around the themes of cloning technology, animal health and welfare issues and food safety and environment aspects. The meeting was chaired by Sue Davies, Chair of the EFSA's Stakeholder Consultative Platform. Cloning could allow breeders to introduce strains of animals with increased disease resistance and other qualities and could provide food processors with a better quality of meat and other products, such as dairy. It uses DNA technology to produce multiple, exact copies of a single gene or other segment of DNA, creating an animal with exactly the same genetic make-up as another currently or previously existing animal. EFSA's Draft Opinion said: "Based on current knowledge, there is no expectation that clones or their progeny would introduce any new food safety risks compared with conventionally bred animals." It went onto say that meat and milk obtained from healthy cattle and pig clones and their offspring are "within the normal range with respect to the composition and nutritional value of similar products obtained from conventionally bred animals". EFSA is essentially in accord with the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In its final risk assessment on the safety of meat and milk from healthy cloned animals and their offspring, FDA also concluded that they pose no risk to human health. In reality, it is not expected that cloned animals will form any significant quantity of cloned material making its way into the food chain because of cost constraints. Instead, clones of the very best breeding stock are expected to be used to produce high quality offspring for human consumption or milk production. Both EFSA and FDA have met opposition to their views. In America, representatives from the food industry and consumers have expressed their concerns. Criticism to EFSA's draft report has come from another European body, the European Group on Ethics (EGE). Just days after the draft report was published, EGE said that it did not see "convincing arguments to justify the production of food from clones and their offspring". The group said that if cloned animals were to be introduced to the food market several steps should be followed including more research on food safety and animal welfare. It pointed out that cloned animals often experienced a high rate of disease and other health problems. "Further ethical, legal and social implications of animal cloning for food supply as well as qualitative studies on public perception should be carried out," it advised. Comments on EFSA's Draft Opinion can be submitted via the organisation's website. A report of yesterday's meeting is due to be published next week.