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21st Sep 2019

EU agency gives guarded 'ok' to cloned meat

  • (Photo: EUobserver)

Meat and milk from cloned animals or their offspring are as safe to eat as products from conventionally bred animals, the European Union's food safety watchdog has said. The body has admitted, however, that the base of evidence - while showing consistent findings - is still limited.

On Thursday (24 July), the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) released its final scientific opinion on the impact of animal cloning on food safety, animal health and welfare as well as the environment.

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The study - triggered by the European Commission's request for advice in February 2007 - has concluded that "for cattle and pigs, food safety concerns are considered unlikely".

"The composition and nutritional values of meat and milk from healthy clones and their offspring are not different from those obtained from conventionally reproduced animals," Professor Vittorio Silano, the head of EFSA's scientific committee, told the EUobserver.

But when asked whether there is any risk linked to eating and drinking cloned food products, he sticked to the term "unlikely".

"Science normally does not give this kind of reply: [a definitive] 'Yes' or 'No'. The reply we can give confidently is that it is unlikely that there might be a problem," Professor Silano said, although recommending "additional research" in order to increase the data basis for any conclusion.

In addition, EFSA has stressed that meat and milk must be derived strictly from healthy animals, while it is "important" to track back sick animals and remove them from food chain.

The study has also raised concerns over health and animal welfare aspects, as "a significant proportion of clones" have been found to be adversely affected, often severely and with a fatal outcome.

But there is "no evidence that there is any carry-over to the next generation", Professor Dan Collins, a member of EFSA's scientific committee, told the EUobserver.

The European Commission - in charge of making any policy recommendations based on EFSA's study - has responded cautiously to study results. They "give rise to increased concerns on aspects of animal health and welfare" and left open questions of food safety, it said, according to the Guardian.

According to Professor Silano, it is going to take a long time before food from cloned animals' offspring reaches store shelves in Europe.

"I guess this is the trend in the US, but I am not so sure that this is the trend in Europe," he said, citing many objections concerning animal welfare and skeptic public opinion as two main reasons.

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