EFSA cloning report highlights labelling concerns

By Linda Rano

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Cloning, Food

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has published a report on
a technical meeting with its Stakeholder Consultative Platform held
earlier this month to discuss its Draft Opinion on animal cloning.

A main area of discussion was public perception of cloning as a method of food production. "Cloned meat is likely to be a controversial issue with the European public, sitting as it does at the nexus of sensitivities around food, animals and the life sciences,​" said the report. Indeed, although EFSA's Draft Opinion had concluded that meat and dairy products from cloned animals are probably safe for human consumption, food manufacturers remain concerned about customer reaction, and are wary about developments in this area. Labelling ​ A presentation on consumer perceptions of cloned food that was highlighted during the meeting expressed concerns that imposing cloned products on the public without appropriate labelling denies consumer choice and runs counter to consumer protection legislation in Europe. Even if cloned meat is shown to be equivalent to conventional meat, "sections of the public will demand labelling​". "While labelling based on scientific analysis or traceability may present considerable challenges, if such demands are ignored the voices of protest will be amplified,"​ wrote the report. It also questions how consumers would react to derivatives from cloned animals such as milk products. "In our view it is likely that the focus of public concerns will lean towards cultural taboos and semi-taboos rather than challenges to the scientific evidence​" The report suggests that EFSA and DG SANCO (Directorate General for Health and Consumer Affairs) need to agree a consistent strategy for informing the public of the key steps in the evaluation and decision-making process.​ Participants at the meeting considered the EC's Eurobarometer scheduled for later this year as an opportunity for building an understanding of consumer concerns and views. Science concerns ​ Stakeholders at the meeting had particular questions regarding how the Scientific Committee was able to reach firm conclusions on risks when the evidence base was limited. It was stressed that the Opinion had to be substantiated with reference to scientific literature, to clarify how conclusions were reached. Some participants emphasised again the need for on-going research. Regulation ​ Questions were also raised about the regulatory context and possible consideration of any future EU measures in relation to cloned animals, their offspring and their products such as meat and milk. Traceability ​ Another concern was traceability, related to possible future risk management measures. Should traceability be required in the future, there are challenges to developing any system to facilitate labelling of foods from cloned animals. The need to prevent any reduction of genetic diversity was also discussed. The 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. The meeting was attended by representatives of the European Commission and the European Group on Ethics and New Technologies (EGE). The latter has already said that it does not see "convincing arguments to justify the production of food from clones and their offspring​", adding "Further ethical, legal and social implications of animal cloning for food supply as well as qualitative studies on public perception should be carried out​". The Final Opinion of the EFSA, together with the published opinion of the EGE, will be used by the EC to help inform its consideration of possible risk management measures in relation to cloned animals, their offspring and products. The EFSA Final Opinion is due in May 2008. For more information, click here​.

Related topics: Food Safety & Quality

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