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13th Aug 2022

Milk from cloned cow offspring exposes gap in EU food law

Claims that a British farmer has been selling milk from a cloned animal has exposed a loophole in an EU law dealing with putting new foods on the market.

Following the original article in the International Herald Tribune last week, British newspapers are reporting that a dairy farmer in the UK has been selling milk from a cow bred from a clone. The matter is currently being investigated by the country's Food Standards Agency.

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  • Dolly the sheep, the first cloned animal from 1996, in a display case in a Scottish museum (Photo: Wikipedia)

However, even if the report is verified, the farmer in question has not broken EU rules. Under the EU's 'novel food' rules, governing foods made using new techniques, anyone wishing to sell food from a cloned animal would have to first register with the authorities. To date there have been no authorisations.

Produce from the offspring of cloned animals is not covered by the rules.

"Meat and milk from the offspring of cloned animals is not currently covered by the Novel Foods regulation. Therefore, there is no need to notify it," a European Commission spokesperson said Tuesday (3 August).

The legal situation means that the authorities have no way of knowing how much, if any, produce from the offspring of cloned animals is being sold in the EU. There should, however, be no products directly from cloned animals as none has been officially authorised.

The commission spokesperson pointed out that scientific evidence has indicated that "meat and milk and products from cloned animals do not pose a health risk" adding that this should therefore also be the case for products coming from the offspring of cloned animals.

Despite the scientific evidence, the European public is generally opposed to having food from cloned animals on the dinner table - a similar wariness can be found when it comes to genetically modified foods. The concerns usually focus on the ethical and welfare questions raised by cloning.

Last month the European Parliament voted in favour of banning the sale of meat and dairy products from cloned animals and their offspring.

"Although no safety concerns have been identified so far with meat produced from cloned animals, this technique raises serious issues about animal welfare, reduction of biodiversity, as well as ethical concerns," said Liberal French MEP Corinne Lepage before the vote.

Left-wing Dutch MEP Kartika Liotard, who led the process in EU assembly, said: "A majority supports my ethical objections to the industrial production of cloned meat for food."

MEPs want separate rules regulating cloning rather than simply having it dealt with as part of rules governing how companies sell food from cloned animals. The issue is due to be taken up by member states after the summer break.

For its part, the commission is due to publish a report on cloning by the end of the year. The report will "update the situation based on the latest scientific advice and see if there is any need to do anything," said a spokesperson.

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