Two months after it was introduced to the floor of the European Parliament, the issue of selling cloned animals and their meat has yet to reach a resolution. A few days ago committee members voiced criticism that the current proposal does not impose tough enough restrictions and that perhaps the proposal should be withdrawn and a new one constructed from the ground-up.
This proposal aims to ban all farm-based cloning and greatly restrict the importation of cloned animals and products from cloned animals. This proposal encapsulates a number of different ethical and economic issues. Though seemingly straightforward, seemingly small differences in opinion about how tight these regulations ought to be are leading to disagreements.
One of the points of disagreement is restriction on the reproductive material from cloned animals. “Reproductive material” may include both the embryos from inter-bred clones and the newborn off-spring from clone couples. While breeding two cloned animals together will not produce another genetically identical clone, the offspring will be quite similar to the parents and might be at a greater risk for genetic disorders (it would be a similar situation if two identical twins could produce a child).
Some committee members are less opposed to the sale of cloned animal offspring or meat from the cloned animal offspring. EU Health Commissioner Tonio Borg admits that if coupled with an effective labeling campaign such sales might be permissible. Logistically though this would pose a great challenge to the EU. The infrastructure to track the offspring of cloned animals and their subsequent offspring is extremely limited. Others contend that no cloned animal offspring meat should be sold at all, and still others want to postpone this particular matter for consideration at a later date.
This proposal is motivated primarily by ethical and economic reasons. Cloning is an extremely capital-intensive undertaking that offers success rates rarely above 15 percent. Supporters for restriction of cloned meat in the EU’s also argue that cloning creates unnecessary suffering in animals and also contend that the cloning process is unnatural.
It is important to note that health issues are not a factor in considering this proposal. The European Food Safety Authority has thus far found no indication that food safety from dairy and meat products originating from cloned animals or their offspring is in anyway inferior to that of conventionally bred animals. In addition cloning will still be allowed for other purposes such as research, pharmaceutical production, and the conservation of rare species will still be allowed.
Currently Denmark is the only country that reportedly has such a restrictive ban in place. However if this proposal passes it will recruit over five hundred million people from twenty-eight different nations to adopt similar measures. This will more than likely have a significant impact in countries that clone animals for agricultural use. These countries include the United States, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, and Japan.
The proposal must be approved by both the European Parliament and the EU governments in order for it to become law. If it does pass, restrictions on cloned meat across the EU could make a considerable difference in how meat industries from other parts of the world do business.
By Sarah Takushi