the cloning of animals,
the farming of cloned animals or their offspring,
the placing on the market of meat or dairy products derived from cloned animals or their offspring, and
the importing of cloned animals, their offspring, semen and embryos from cloned animals or their offspring, and meat or dairy products derived from cloned animals or their offspring."
Animal health problems and risks for the European quality model
The text refers to the health, welfare and higher mortality problems of cloned animals and their surrogate dams recently highlighted by several groups of European experts, including the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the European Group on Ethics. MEPs also stress that cloning would significantly reduce genetic diversity within livestock populations, increasing the possibility of whole herds being decimated by diseases to which they are susceptible.
In addition, the European Parliament fears that use of cloning techniques would harm the image of the European agricultural model, which is based on product quality, environment-friendly principles and respect for stringent animal welfare conditions. They also point out that Directive 98/58/EC on the protection of farm animals bans natural or artificial procedures which are likely to cause suffering or injury to any of the animals concerned.
Currently no products derived from cloned animals are sold in Europe or the rest of the world. However, experts believe that such products could reach the market by 2010. A moratorium on the sale of this type of product, introduced in the USA in 2001, was challenged by the US Food and Drug Administration, which concluded in January that meat and milk from clones of cattle, pigs and goats and their offspring are as reliable as those of traditionally bred animals.
European Commission quizzed
During their debate yesterday evening, MEPs quizzed the European Commission on its position and its plans as regards animal cloning. "Not only is it a case of food safety, we in Europe believe that we are producing food quality products", EP Agriculture Committee Chairman Neil Parish (EPP-ED, UK) said. "It is also a question of animal welfare and consumer confidence" and there is a "risk of producing less strong and healthy animals". He stressed "we have to look at this seriously".
Mr Parish said: "Cloning entails serious health and welfare problems for clones and their surrogate dams; animal health problems come from invasive techniques required to produce a clone; there is the suffering of surrogate dams which carry cloned foetuses, and high levels of ill health and mortality in early life for cloned animals. I call on the Commission to submit proposals prohibiting the cloning of animals in the food supply and the placing of cloned animals on the market in meat and dairy products."
Androula Vassiliou, the Commissioner for health and food safety, said that the Commission was closely following scientific developments in this area and "is aware that even though the efficiency of animal cloning has improved over the last years, adverse health effects on animal health and welfare still occur today". The Commission "is now evaluating the necessary steps to be taken" and "takes ethical considerations fully into account", including the opinion of the European Group of Ethics which "advocated that at the moment there are no convincing arguments to justify the production of food from clones and their offspring". "According to global trade rules, imports of food products from third countries might be suspended if they present a serious threat to animal or public health. On the basis of the studies conducted and the opinion of EFSA, the Commission will consider whether restrictions must be imposed", she added.