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CLONED ANIMALS - Policy Briefing

 

1. While there is no evidence that consuming products from healthy clones, or their offspring, poses a food safety risk, meat and products from clones and their offspring are considered novel foods and therefore need to be authorised before being placed on the market.

2. NFUS believes the application of science, technology and innovation to agriculture is a positive and highly desirable factor in the industry’s ability to be efficient, productive and sustainable in the 21st Century.

What is a novel food?

3. Meat and products from clones and their offspring are considered novel foods.   A novel food is a food or food ingredient that does not have a significant history of consumption within the European Union before 15 May 1997.   In the UK, the assessment of novel foods is carried out by the Advisory Committee for Novel Food and Processes, an independent committee of scientists appointed by the Food Standards Agency.

4. The FSA’s interpretation of the law has been that meat and products from clones and their offspring are considered novel foods and would therefore need to be authorised before being placed on the market.

5. Foods produced from cloned animals fall under Regulation (EC) No 258/97 (the ‘Novel Foods Regulation’).   The transposition of Regulation (EC) No 258/97 into UK legislation was adopted in 1997 via the Novel Food and Novel Food Ingredients Regulations 1997.

Incident – August 2010

6. The Food Standards Agency has traced all the calves born in the UK from eight embryos harvested from a cloned cow in the USA.   Four of these embryos resulted in male calves and four were female; all were the Holstein breed of cattle.   Each of these calves were conceived through sexual fertilization and then implanted into a surrogate mother.

7. Of the four male calves three have been slaughtered and the other died at about one month old.

  • Two of these were on one farm, Dundee Paratrooper and Dundee Perfect.   The first, Dundee Paratrooper, was born in December 2006 and was slaughtered in July 2009.   Meat from this animal entered the food chain and will have been eaten.   The second, Dundee Perfect, was born in March 2007 and was slaughtered on 27 July 2010.   Meat from this animal has been stopped from entering the food chain.
  • Dundee Parable was on another farm.   Parable was born in May 2007 and was slaughtered 5 May 2010.   Meat from this animal entered the food chain.
  • The fourth male calf died at about one month old.   No meat or products from this young animal entered the food chain and its carcass was disposed of in accordance with the law.

8. Of the four female calves born three are alive on three separate dairy farms and one died at less than a month old.

  • Dundee Paradise is believed to be part of a dairy herd but at present the FSA cannot confirm whther milk from this animal has entered the food chain.   As part of this investigation local authority officials are visiting the farm on which this herd is kept.
  • Two other cows are being kept as part of dairy herds but at present the FSA cannot confirm whether or not milk from these animals has entered the food chain.   Local authority officials are visiting the farms on which these animals are kept.
  • The fourth female calf died at about one month old.   No meat or products from this young animal entered the food chain and its carcass was disposed of in accordance with the law.

Food Chain

9. In order to produce food products from clones or their offspring, a novel food application must be submitted and authorisation granted at a European level before any such food is placed on the market.   The FSA is the UK authority responsible for accepting novel food applications.   The penalty for failing to comply with the Novel Foods Regulations is a fine of up to £5,000.

Statements

10. The European Food Safety Authority issued an opinion in 2008 which stated that: 'No clear evidence has emerged to suggest any differences between food products from clones or their offspring, in terms of food safety, compared to products from conventionally bred animals. But we must acknowledge that the evidence base, while growing and showing consistent findings, is still small

11. The FSA stated in January 2007 that they were in discussion with the European Commission about the legal requirements relating to offspring of cloned animals. They also confirmed that at that time no applications had been received within the EU for products derived from cloned animals 

Imports into the EU

12. There are EU regulations concerning cloned animals.   The creation of cloned animals/embryos using SCNT is not permitted in the EU but the progeny of animals cloned abroad may be imported.   Genetic material from animals cloned abroad may also be imported.

13. The importation of all live animals and embryos is controlled by EU and national legislation.   Defra is responsible for issuing licenses for any imported embryos from cloned animals.

European Legislative Developments

14. The Regulation (EC) No 258/97 (novel foods regulation) will be amended in the future although no timescale has yet been set.   The details of such amendments are being discussed in Brussels by both the European Parliament and the EU Council.

15. As part of this process MEPs in July voted for an outright ban on foods from clones and their offspring.   EU Council (Member states) will decide their position before the end of this year (in previous votes the majority of Member States were opposed to cloning).

16. The European Commission is also committed to producing a report by the end of the year looking at all aspects of cloning such as the value to agriculture, scientific evidence and how and where cloning should sit in EU regulations.

Other Countries

United States

17. The position of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is that meat and milk from cloned pigs, cattle and goats and their offspring are safe to eat and do not need to be labelled . The FDA has not reached a conclusion for sheep, citing a lack of evidence. The Department of Agriculture has given the go-ahead for the offspring of clones to enter the food chain but is asking farmers not to sell food derived from clones until it has developed a regulatory scheme. In the US there has been a voluntary moratorium on the sale of such products since July 2001.

Australia and New Zealand

18. There are no regulations in either country to prevent the sale of food from cloned livestock and their progeny.   The New Zealand Food Safety Authority says there is no need for specific regulation; Australia's Department of Health says it is still looking into whether to regulate.   The independent agency Food Standards Australia New Zealand says that researchers in both countries have voluntarily agreed to prevent clones from entering the food chain.

Canada

19. No food from cloned animals or their offspring is approved for sale.   Health Canada has asked those who want to produce such food not to submit applications until it has a policy in place.

Ends

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