New EU regulation on authorising food from cloned animals sparks heated debate

By Rory Harrington

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Novel foods European union

EU chiefs have been criticised for approving a draft regulation on food from cloned animals that could “keep options open” for its eventual authorisation in the region, claimed opponents.

The censure came after Agriculture ministers agreed the draft rule to include food from cloned animals in proposed legislation on novel foods. UK Green MEP Caroline Lucas labelled the move as a “a potential stepping stone towards legislation to authorise such products”​ and said the approval “flies in the face of consumer concerns and a European Parliament vote in favour of an outright ban”.

Yesterday’s statement from the European Council reiterated that novel foods should only be authorised if they did not “present a danger for consumers, do not mislead them and are not nutritionally disadvantageous for them”​.

Draft proposal includes cloned off-spring

Under the draft legislation, the authorisation procedure for food from cloned animals would be streamlined by switching to a centralised EU level procedure. All applications for novel foods – including food from cloned animals – would be sent to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) for risk assessment. Currently, an application must be made to a single member state which submits it to its national food assessment body for initial safety assessment. This is then sent to the other member states and the Commission for comments.

The Council ministers added a further proposal to extend the scope of the regulation by including food from the first generation off-spring of cloned animals. Defenders of the draft regulation point out that both measures will in fact toughen up and clarify current rules surrounding food from cloned animals.

Formalising provisions

Diplomats at the Council told the proposal merely made explicit the provision that food from cloned animals should be formally recognized and regulated in the same way as all novel foods. Previously, inclusion of food from cloned animals in this grouping was assumed and implied but not specifically stated as being part of novel food regulations, added the official. Novel foods are defined as those not used for human consumption to a significant degree within the EC before 15 May 1997.

The draft regulation will now be sent to the European Parliament for a second reading before being returned to the Council for further scrutiny. The parliament has already passed a motion in favour of an all out ban on food from cloned animals.

Compromise and concerns

Some have seen yesterday’s draft proposals as an attempt by the Council to find a compromise between the Commission, which is in favour of authorising food from cloned animals provided it meets all rigorous scientific risk assessments, and the avowedly anti cloned animal parliament.

MEP Lucas voiced those concerns yesterday: "It is deeply worrying that EU governments are keeping options open regarding the possible sale of meat from cloned animals on the European market.”

She said cloning was an “incredibly wasteful way of producing food, requiring the loss of many animal lives just to produce one successful clone”​, adding that those which survived suffered high rates of illness and premature death.

"A green light to produce food from cloned animals would ultimately lead to a reduction in breed and genetic varieties of livestock, which have already become restricted through current practices. Such variety offers an essential safeguard against epidemics and food scares,”​ she added.

"In upcoming negotiations, the European Parliament must stand firm in calling for a ban on meat from cloned animals. Animal welfare, food safety, consumer confidence and the future direction of agriculture are at stake."

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