In March, Novel Food Regulations negotiations, over banning the use of cloned animals for food in the European Union (EU), broke down when EU member states, and the European Parliament, could not come to an agreement.
The European Parliament wanted to ban meat from both cloned animals and their offspring, while governments from member states insisted the ban should only apply to the cloned animals themselves.
After three years of negotiations a compromise was offered to just have labeling of meat that comes from cloned animals or their offspring, but member states said they could only agree to such labels for beef. Beef is already heavily labeled and tracked because of previous mad cow scares – European Parliament negotiators said – no deal!
Although EU governments and the European Commission have stressed that scientific studies have shown there is no difference between eating meat from a cloned animal and eating meat from a regular animal, many members of the European parliament have objected to the practice on animal health and welfare grounds.
Had the Novel Foods Regulation passed, the EU would have been the first in the world to explicitly ban meat from cloned animals.
In the US, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate the sale of milk or meat from offspring of cloned animals and does not require these foods to be labeled. Cloned food products have been in the American food supply since 2008.
However, it wasn’t until the summer of 2010, that the US consumer was made aware of the use of cloned meat, in the US. The New York Times broke the news with a report that read: Britain Confirms Unauthorized Sale of Meat From Animal Bred From a Clone – sparking huge debates over cloned meats in the UK and across Europe, while leaving the US consumer still very much in denial.
In 2006 the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the consumption of meat and dairy from cloned animals, saying that they are indistinguishable from products from non-cloned animals. They also ruled out any labeling scheme that would require companies to inform consumers when meat comes from a cloned animal.
The two major issues surrounding cloned meats are the lack of research and a question of ethics. The ethical issue can be argued, lack of research cannot. Recent studies have found that genetic defects in clones could be passed down to their offspring. The data on cloned pigs’ offspring showed smaller litters, slower growth, 25% of progeny deaths, and an abnormality rate of 2.5 times that of normal pigs.
Most clones die before birth or in the first few weeks of life. Cattle clones often suffer from “large-offspring” syndrome, wherein the fetus grows twice as large as normal, sometimes causing death for both the cow and calf. Surviving calves often 't walk and are sicker than ordinary calves.
Unlike the US, the EU tends to follow the 'precautionary principle' when it comes to consumer protection, restricting the use of products or food if they cannot be proven to be safe or healthy, even if no proof exists that they are harmful.
A 2008 Euro-barometer survey found that 58% of EU citizens think cloning for food production is "unjustified", while 83% said foods from cloned animals should be labeled. 63% said that it was "unlikely" they would buy such food if they saw from the label that it was cloned.