By Sean Poulter
Machiavellian’ EU Commissioners are set to back the sale of meat and milk from the offspring of cloned farm animals despite mass consumer opposition.
Studies in Britain and across Europe have identified that a huge majority of people oppose clone animal farming.
Concerns surround the ethics of the process and the welfare of the animals involved. A lack of research on food safety is also an issue.
However, a leaked report to be discussed by the EU’s College of Commissioners tomorrow comes out in favour of food from the offspring of clones.
Specifically, the report proposes a temporary five year ban on the sale of meat and milk from clones, but there would be no ban on food from their offspring.
If this policy is adopted, European farms could be populated by cloned supersize animals used as breeding stock for cows, pigs and sheep that are reared for food.
The Daily Mail revealed in the summer that more than 100 cattle – pedigree Holstein milking cows – which are the offspring of clones are being raised on British farms.
We also revealed how meat from two clone offspring bulls and one veal calf had been sold in butcher shops from Scotland, to the north east England, London, and Belgium.
Britain’s Food Standards Agency(FSA) has made clear that it believes it is illegal to sell meat and milk from these sources without first getting its approval.
Controversially, the British Government’s food and farming minister, Caroline Spelman, supports the move to force meat and milk from clone offspring into supermarkets.
Alarmingly, it appears this food would not have to be labelled, leaving families completely in the dark about what they are putting in their mouths.
The idea that the European Commission and British government are putting the interest of hi-tech clone farmers over the concerns of consumers and animal welfare has angered critics.
The attitude has echoes of the BSE crisis and the way biotech firms tried to force GM food into the national diet.
A 2008 EU study found consumers across Europe are unhappy at this new era of ‘Frankenstein Food’ farming.
Some 87per cent of Britons said we don’t know enough about the long-term health and safety effects of eating food from these animals.
A separate study or Britain’s FSA by Creative Research, found that the more consumers learned about cloning, the greater were the objections.
Director of the research company, Dr Steve Griggs, said: ‘There was a strong sense from the public that this represents a quantum leap …They characterised animal cloning as very much interfering with nature.’
Attempts to create animal clones requires invasive techniques to remove eggs and embryos. There is a high number of still-births and malformed young, many have short lifespans.
Dr Griggs said: ‘There were concerns about the ethical side of animal cloning, indeed whether we have the moral right to go down this road.’
On food, he said: ‘Most people were concerned that cloning could result in food that was unsafe for human consumption,’ he said.
‘The fact there are miscarriages and deformed offspring gives people lots of concerns about the implications for the food derived from those animals.’
Importantly, the vast majority said food derived from these animals should be labelled.
Even if the Commissioners and the British Government back the sale of food from clone offspring, this is not the final decision. MEPS and other, more sceptical, nations could try and block the policy.
The Eurogroup for Animals said the proposed ban on food from clone animals should also apply to their offspring.
Director of the organisation, Sonja Van Tichelen(correct), said: ‘It is imperative that the ban includes the offspring of cloned animals to ensure that all products originating from cloned animals are removed from the European market.
‘We believe that the Commission should use the five year period proposed for the ban to develop robust systems in the same way as was undertaken in the BSE crisis to ensure food safety is maintained at the highest level.’
Clones themselves can suffer a range of painful conditiions, including malformed organs and gigantism. Many die in the womb or soon after birth.
By contrast, the Commission and UK government take the view that meat and milk from the offspring of a clone is effectively normal and therefore no ban or labelling is required.