The European Commission has issued its Report on Animal Cloning for Food Production, which makes a strong ethical and welfare case for banning the cloning of animals for the food supply. However, it then argues that, as the United States has no prohibition on cloning, the European Union (EU) could not ban the sale of the progeny, or offspring, of clones.
The report refers to the higher illness and mortality rates of cloned farm animals and the fact that a "significant number of the animals die during or shortly after birth", citing heart, lung and kidney problems as well as poor immune systems. It even refers to the conclusion of its own Ethics Committee that it did "not see convincing arguments to justify the production of food from clones and their offspring".
The report goes on to say that the United States allows meat and milk from the offspring of clones to be marketed. As there is no apparent risk to health from eating the progeny of cloned animals, it would be difficult for the EU to stop imported semen from cloned bulls from being used. Around 600,000 calves are born in the EU each year from cattle semen imported from the US or Canada. As a result, the meat and milk from the offspring of cloned animals could potentially be sold and consumed in any EU country.
The Commission's report recommends a temporary (5-year) ban on cloning animals for food production in the EU but then goes on to propose allowing the import of the embryos and the semen of clones. Although the Report recommends setting up a traceability scheme for such imports, EU farmers and biotech companies will be able to create the offspring of clones from imported semen and embryos and market their produce.
As a result, EU consumers could soon be consuming meat and milk from the offspring of clones without knowing it and without wanting to.
The Compassionate view
Compassion in World Farming believes this is a cynical way to "allow cloning by the back door". If the cloning technology is shrouded in so much suffering for so many failed cloned animals, then it should be banned outright. As you can't have offspring of clones without cloned animals themselves, then both should be banned.
Compassion calls on the Commission to come clean and ban all aspects of cloning including the importation of semen or embryos from clones.
Compassion is working with our partners in Europe to oppose the marketing of cloned animals and their offspring. As this report wends its way through the EU political processes over the coming months, we shall be asking our supporters throughout the EU to help us stop this horrendous and unnecessary technology from becoming another grim aspect of factory farming.
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