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Tuesday, 2 September 2008 - Brussels OJ edition

Cloning of animals for food supply (debate)

  Agnes Schierhuber, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. – (DE) Mr President, Commissioner, today’s discussion is absolutely essential as a means of drawing attention to the dangers inherent in cloning. I am very grateful to Neil Parish for having put this oral question to the Commission. One thing is quite clear, namely that animal health equates with food safety.

As we know, there are various types of cloning processes: therapeutic and reproductive cloning as well as DNA cloning. What we are discussing today is reproductive cloning. Reproductive cloning means creating a genetically identical copy of something: a plant, an animal and perhaps one day – if we feel the need to overstep all boundaries – even a human being.

When cloning is used in animal breeding for food production, however, there are problems. The first of these to which I wish to refer is the high loss rate. We know from the Americans that only a very few clones survive. Consequently, cloning for food production is not financially viable. From the very beginning, the clone has the genetic age of the original. That is to say if the original is a six-year-old cow, the clone will be a calf whose genes are six years old. In the cloning process the cloning genome is inevitably damaged. This makes the clone susceptible to diseases and parasites.

When cloning occurs over several generations, Commissioner, there is a cumulative depletion of the genetic diversity on which species depend for their survival because it enables them to adapt to changes in their natural surroundings.

Lastly, the question arises whether mankind can presume to intervene in the most natural biological processes, even if it is done with the best intentions. It seems to me that there is no need to alter something which has worked for millions of years. Human being have too short a lifespan, in any case, to experience the effects of their actions over long periods of time. I hope we shall not find ourselves in the same dilemma as Goethe’s sorcerer’s apprentice, who could not rid himself of the spirits he had conjured up.

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