New York Times
By ELISABETH ROSENTHAL
Food From Cloned Animals Seems Safe, a Panel Finds
Meat and milk from cloned animals seem to pose no special health risks, said a draft report released Friday by the European Food Safety Agency. It was a first step toward the eventual sale of such products within the European Union.
“It is very unlikely that any difference exists in terms of food safety between food products originating from clones and their progeny compared with those derived from conventionally bred animals,” the report said.
It acknowledged that cloned animals were prone to more diseases than conventionally bred animals, but it added that humans would not suffer because unhealthy clones would be excluded from the food chain as is the case with conventionally bred animals.
The decision prompted an immediate outcry from environmental groups, which already were at odds with the agency over its conclusion that there was “no evidence” that genetically modified crops posed a health or environmental risk.
The European Food Safety Agency is a scientific body that advises the European Commission, which asked for its opinion on cloned animal products early in 2007. Its ruling is not binding and does not take into account the ethical aspects of cloning, which will be reviewed separately by the European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies, an advisory panel.
The decision also does not take into account European public opinion, which strongly favors natural foods. “So now we feed our animals with genetically modified plants. And the animals will be clones,” Ms. Holder said. The European public “doesn’t want these things.”
Based on the expert panels’ opinions, the European Commission will decide whether to allow the sale of such products on the Continent. But under international trade law, it is difficult for the commission to exclude unpopular products that its scientific advisers say are safe.
Last year, the World Trade Organization concluded that European efforts to ban genetically modified crops constituted an unfair trade barrier. The commission is under threat of penalties if member states do not open their markets to such products. Many areas, including large parts of Greece, Italy and Austria, have refused.
Friday’s decision was particularly important because the United States Food and Drug Administration is also expected to rule this month on the safety of products from cloned animals. It, too, is expected to conclude that the products are safe. That could allow commercial production of such products to move forward. There is currently a moratorium, although a fledgling agricultural cloning industry in the United States is waiting for a green light.
The possibility that meat and dairy products from cloned animals could soon arrive on Europe’s doorstep prompted the European Commission to action.
“As the technology has developed, so does the possibility that such products will come on the market, which is why E.F.S.A.’s scientific advice on the matter is important,” said Karen Talbot, a spokeswoman for the agency, which is based in Parma, Italy.
Europeans are very sceptical about animal cloning for food production, Eurobarometer reveals
A Flash Eurobarometer study, presented by the European Commission today, reveals that European citizens have a generally negative perception of animal cloning for food production. The study was carried out to assess citizens’ attitudes towards animal cloning. It indicates firstly, that the vast majority of citizens has a good degree of knowledge of what is animal cloning ( eight out of 10 stated correctly that “cloning is making an identical copy of an existing animal). Secondly, the study shows that a very high percentage of citizens is negative about cloning for human consumption as 81% feels that the long term effects of animal cloning on nature are unknown while 84% states that we don’t have enough experience about the long-term health and safety effects of using cloned animals for food.
EU Health Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou said: “The survey provides us with valuable insights into the attitudes of EU citizens toward the use of animal cloning technology for food production. The European Commission has now before it the opinions of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the European Group of Ethics (EGE) and also the Eurobarometer survey. The Commission will now proceed with the analysis of these elements before considering whether and what action may be necessary.”
Some details about the study
With regard to when cloning may be justified, respondents noted that animal cloning for food production should never be justified by an average of 58% while 41% thought that it may be justified to improve the robustness of animals against diseases and 44% thought it would be justified if used to preserve rare animal species.
Amongst other issues, almost four out of 10 of those asked (38%) believe that none of the potential benefits presented to them (health or economic) would justify breeding cloned animals for food production. Out of those believing that there are benefits to animal cloning, 54% expressed the opinion that the procedure might help solve the worldwide food problems. However, 54% and 44% of the respondent felt that animal cloning would ultimately not benefit either consumers or farmers.
The food industry emerged as the sector that would ultimately benefit if animal cloning for food production purposes was allowed: 86% of respondents share this opinion.
Citizens stated they are “not at all likely” to buy food derived from cloned animals (43%) or from offspring of cloned animals (41%)