A draft law to ban the cloning of all farm animals, their descendants and products derived from them, including imports, in the EU was voted by the Environment and Agriculture committees on Wednesday. MEPs beefed up the European Commission’s initial proposal, citing high mortality rates at all development stages of cloning and EU citizens’ animal welfare and ethical concerns.
"Due to the negative effects on animal welfare, cloning for farming purposes is rejected by a large majority of consumers. Furthermore, we do not need cloning to ensure meat supplies in the EU. Prohibiting cloning is therefore a matter of European values and principles. Consequently, the ban should apply not only to clones themselves but also to their reproductive material (semen and embryos), their descendants and any products derived from them, including imports. This is necessary because otherwise we would merely promote cloning in third countries", said Environment Committee co-rapporteur Renate Sommer (EPP, DE).
"There are two key points that we focused on from the outset: protecting the health of EU citizens and consumers and extending the ban to cover the descendants of cloned animals”, said co-rapporteur law Giulia Moi (EFDD, IT). “The ban on placing animal clones or their offspring on the EU market is a red line for us. We are well aware that cloning is allowed in certain third countries that EU trades with, but we cannot allow these products to be placed on the EU market. We also want to ensure that cloning of animals would not become a common practice within the EU" she added.
The committees’ text, approved by 82 votes to 8 with 8 abstentions, changes the form of the legal act from a directive, which EU countries would have had to transpose into their national laws, into a regulation, which would apply directly in all of them. MEPs also extended the ban’s scope to cover all species of animals kept and reproduced for farming purposes (instead of only bovine, ovine, caprine and equine species, as proposed by the Commission).
Descendants and germinal products
MEPs note that although animal welfare concerns might not be apparent in the case of descendants of cloned animals, as they are born by means of conventional sexual reproduction, in order for there even to be a descendant, a cloned animal progenitor is required, which entails significant animal welfare and ethical concerns. They therefore extended the ban to cover the germinal products of animal clones, descendants of animal clones and products derived from them.
Given that animals are already cloned for farming purposes in certain third countries, the law would make it illegal to import animals from third countries unless the import certificate shows that they are not animal clones or their descendants. Imports of animal germinal products and food and feed of animal origin would also have to be certified as not deriving from animal clones or their descendants.
High mortality rates at all development stages
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) said in a 2008 opinion that the health and welfare of a significant proportion of clones had been found to be adversely affected, often severely and with a fatal outcome. These effects contribute to cloning’s low efficiency rates, of 6 to 15% for bovine and 6% for porcine species, and make it necessary to implant embryo clones into several dams in order to obtain one cloned animal. Furthermore, clone abnormalities and unusually large offspring result in difficult births and neonatal deaths.
Citizens disapprove of cloning
MEPs cite consumer research findings that EU citizens strongly oppose the consumption of food from animal clones or from their descendants and that the majority also disapprove of the use of cloning for farming purposes, on animal welfare and general ethical grounds.
The report will be put to a vote by Parliament as a whole at the 7-9 September plenary session in Strasbourg.