MEPs vote for 'comprehensive' cloning ban

By Niamh Michail contact

- Last updated on GMT

 "We want to ban [cloning] comprehensively... Sometimes, politics have to set the limits,” said report co-rapporteur, Renate Sommer.
"We want to ban [cloning] comprehensively... Sometimes, politics have to set the limits,” said report co-rapporteur, Renate Sommer.

Related tags: Food safety, European union

MEPs voted yesterday to ban imports of food from cloned animals and their descendants - but the European Commission has called the amendments 'disproportionate' and even 'legally impossible'.

The report was passed by 529 votes to 120, with 57 abstentions.

MEPs also voted to extend the ban to cover all species of animal kept for farming purposes. The previous ban proposed by the Commission, only covered bovine (cattle), porcine (pig), ovine (sheep), caprine (goat) and equine (horse) species.

Co-rapporteur Renate Sommer said the Commission's previous proposal, which allowed imports of reproductive materials from third countries, was tantamount to Europe “washing [its] hands, letting others do the dirty work”.

According to the new report, imports into the EU would only be allowed if certificates could prove the animals, or their descendants, were not cloned.

Agriculture committee co-rapporteur, Giulia Moi said: “This reports sends the message to our trade partners that we are not willing to put our own health, our families' health, and future generations' health at stake using products of dubious quality of this nature."

Commission has 'reservations'

But in a speech​ to Parliament after the vote, commissioner for health and food safety, Vytenis Andriukaitis, said he regretted that the amendments left very little of the Commission’s initial proposal – a proposal he called balanced and workable which reconciled science and ethics.  

Andriukaitis also said many of the amendments were disproportionate, since descendants of clones were conceived through conventional methods thus eliminating any concerns for animal welfare or food safety, and  even legally impossible, because any measures motivated by issues of ethics must be adopted through a different legislative procedure.

A 2010 Eurobarometer report ​found that 77% of those surveyed said animal cloning in food production was fundamentally unnatural and 70% felt that it should not be encouraged, figures much cited by those calling for a tougher ban. But Andriukaitis questioned the results of this survey, claiming the respondents had incorrectly believed that cloning involved genetic modification.

“If half of the interviewees formed their opinion on incorrect presumptions, the outcome of the study has to be treated with a great deal of caution,”​ he said.

'Heartening'

But the result of the vote was welcomed by animal welfare groups, such as Compassion in World Farming, and the European consumer organisation BEUC.

BEUC director general Monique Goyens said: “MEPs have fixed the flaws in the inadequate draft law. (…) Banning food from clones whilst allowing food from their descendants to reach consumers’ plates would be fooling the 70% of Europeans who discourage cloning for food supply.”

She said it was heartening that MEPs had been left unimpressed by threats of a trade war should the EU pass stronger laws on cloning.

“While abiding by its trade obligations, the EU must remain free to adopt regulations that meet its citizens’ expectations.”

The amended text also converted the legal act into a regulation, which has to be applied directly in all member states, rather than a directive which would require further national legislation and could allow room for interpretation.

The co-rapporteurs will now take their amended text to be voted by the Council of the EU.

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