Should cloning for food be banned because of animal welfare concerns? On Tuesday 8 September MEPs debate and vote on amendments to a European Commission proposal to ban the cloning of farm animals in the EU. The MEPs in charge of steering the plans through Parliament support the ban, but want to add provisions on the offspring of cloned animals and the marketing of their products coming from countries outside the EU.
In the EU food from clones currently needs a pre-market approval based on a scientific food safety assessment by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) before it can be put on the market.
The parliamentary report
Not only does cloning raise questions about ethics and how it would affect people's health, scientific evidence also show that some animals suffer from poor health due to cloning. EFSA recognised animal health and welfare concerns due to mortality rates associated with the cloning technology in its 2008 opinion, which it later reconfirmed in statements made in 2009 and 2010.
Because of these reasons the report proposes to ban the practice for all farm animals. Food products from both clones and their offspring must be banned from the EU's food market. However, for this to work, mandatory traceability would be needed in order to track cloned animals, their offspring and any resulting products coming from countries outside the EU where cloning for food is allowed.
Giulia Moi, who is dealing with the proposal on behalf of the agriculture committee, said the work on the parliamentary report had been guided by the need to protect both animals and people: "We didn't fall back on compromises such as the marketing and the opportunity to introduce products derived from cloned animals and their descendants in the member states. Also, we have excluded the possibility that cloning of animals could become a common practice within the borders of the EU." However, she said they were aware the products of the offspring of cloned animals were being marketed in some countries the EU is trading with.
The proposal will need to be approved by both the Parliament and the Council before it can enter into force. Parliament votes on its position on Tuesday 8 September and the Council will adopts its position after that. At the earliest the legislation could enter into force in 2016. However, cloning would not banned for other purposes, such as research, the conservation of rare breeds and endangered species or the use of animals for the production of pharmaceuticals and medical devices.