Cloning vote splits EC and European Parliament

By Martin Todd

- Last updated on GMT

Sommer: 'The parliamentary vote mirrors the opinion of European citizens'
Sommer: 'The parliamentary vote mirrors the opinion of European citizens'

Related tags: European parliament, European union

The European Commission (EC) has attacked the European Parliament’s vote today (September 8, 2015) to completely ban use of cloned animals and their descendants for domestic and imported food across the EU.

Speaking at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, Vytenis Andriukaitis, the EU commissioner for health and food safety, said the proposed amendments left “little of the Commission’s original proposals in place”.

He stressed that the Commission’s directive had sought a total ban on cloning five species (cattle, sheep, goats, pigs and horses) and cloned imports from third countries. He said a more limited measure would respect the health of animals, but allow for innovation, while taking citizens’ concerns into account.

According to Andriukaitis, seeking to extend the ban to descendants and to feed was legally suspect and virtually unenforceable. He said the EC proposals were developed from a legal impact assessment and considered the principle of proportionality.

‘Delighted’

However, one Minister of the European Parliament (MEP) coordinating the parliament’s vote – ‘co-rapporteur’ MEP Renate Sommer, of Germany – told GlobalMeatNews she was “delighted that 75% of MEPs voted in favour” ​of her proposals.

MEPs gave the amended proposals their ‘first reading’ vote in a full session of the European Parliament, in Strasbourg earlier today. The issue will now be voted upon by the EU Council of Ministers, which must also approve the legislation for it to come into force. The EC will also make formal comments on the amendments backed by MEPs.

Sommer was undaunted, adding: “The parliamentary vote mirrors the opinion of European citizens. A Eurobarometer ​[EU opinion poll] study showed that more than 70% of European citizens were against eating food from cloned animals.

‘Extremely concerned’

“They were extremely concerned that the reproduction techniques applied to cloning animals could eventually be applied to human beings, which would raise a number of ethical issues.”

Introducing her proposals to the parliament earlier, Sommer said the “mortality of cloned animals was 90%, with the surviving offspring suffering from deformities, respiratory problems and weak immune systems, often living a painful and short life.”

She also argued that host mothers suffered greatly, often having to have a caesarean section to deliver the cloned animals, saying cloning raised animal welfare as well as ethical concerns.

Sommer told GlobalMeatNews she expected “the European Commission will continue to try and block the European Parliament proposals.”​ However, she hoped that the Commission and the Council “will recognise the strongly held views of EU citizens and so compromise and change their position”​.

Her co-rapporteur Giulia Moi, of Italy, told a press conference following the vote that MEPs were following the demands of European citizens who are clearly against cloning animals entering the food chain.

‘Clearly afraid’

Moi expressed disappointment that the “Commission was not prepared to change its position. The Commission is clearly afraid of the WTO ​[World Trade Organisation]; it thinks that it will bring a case against it.”

The Commission denied that its stance was influenced by its desire to negotiate the Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership (TTIP) free trade deal. But Sommer said she was convinced that the proposed legislation would upset the US government, given high US investment in cloned animals.

Sommer argued her proposals were not anti-science or anti-research, but said there were no signs of cloning techniques improving and there were concerns that these technologies could be applied to human cloning in the future.

Related topics: Meat

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