Meat from the offspring of cloned animals could find its way onto the EU market, with no-one being any the wiser, after member state representatives refused the Parliament's demand to label clone-derived products. The two sides met until late Monday night to discuss updating novel food rules, but were unable to reach agreement on clone-derived food and nanotechnology.
The first animal clone, Dolly the sheep, was created in 1996 and since then cows, pigs and goats have also been cloned, raising the question of whether or not we should use cloned animals for food. The EP had wanted bans on the sale of meat from cloned animals and their offspring and the use of cloning technology to produce food.
EP had proposed compromise to label food from clone offspring
The Council and Commission backed a ban on cloning for food production, but rejected a ban on food from offspring, leading MEPs to propose a compromise of labelling clone-derived meat.
Council agreed only to label fresh beef, which MEPs found insufficient given that a 2008 Eurobarometer study shows 63% of EU citizens are unlikely to buy food from cloned animals, while 61% find animal cloning morally wrong.
"It is deeply frustrating that the Council would not listen to public opinion," the Chair of the EP delegation to the Conciliation Committee talks, Gianni Pittella, and the EP rapporteur on novel foods, Kartika Liotard, said in a joint statement. "Measures regarding clone offspring are absolutely critical because clones are commercially viable only for breeding, not directly for food production. No farmer would spend €100,000 on a cloned bull, only to turn it into hamburgers."
1997 rules on novel foods remain in place
Currently, there are no EU rules specifically allowing or banning dairy products and meat from cloned animals. The European Commission and Council wanted to regulate the products under the novel foods rules, while MEPs wanted them to be dealt with separately.
The failure of conciliation talks between the EP and Council mean that the 1997 novel food rules remain in force. Foods are considered "novel" if they are derived from new technological processes or if they have no significant history of consumption in the EU. The rules require authorisation for the sale of food from cloned animals, but not its offspring or descendants. There have been no applications so far.
The use of nanotechnology in food production, for example as an anti-bacterial agent, or to alter flavour or colour is growing and the EP had called for further checks to be developed to adequately assess the safety of such foods. They also wanted food containing nanoingredients to be labelled. The failure to reach agreement on the new rules means "there will continue to be no special measures regarding nanomaterials in food," the EP statement said.
This is only the second time that the EP and Council have failed to settle their differences about legislation in the Conciliation Committee (the first time was over the working time directive).