The International Herald Tribune reports that the European Food Safety Authority has declined to give milk and meat from cloned animals a greenlight in its final report, published yesterday. Although it says that upon reviewing the existing scientific evidence, there appears to be no difference between the meat and milk of clones compared to that from traditionally bred and raised animals, "we must acknowledge that the evidence base, while growing and showing consistent findings, is still small," MeatPoultry.com quotes Prof. Vittorio Silano, chair of the EFSA’s scientific committee, as saying. More research is needed.
THE EFSA's report also notes there are significant concerns about animal welfare issues related to cloning, such as how many offspring are deformed and/or die within a few days of birth. The UK newspaper the Guardian quotes professor Dan Collins, a member of EFSA's scientific committee, as saying that "there are possible concerns there is an impact of animal health and welfare on food safety. Infectious diseases can be passed down the food chain. Healthy food comes from healthy animals."
Most of the news coverage notes that those reservations were the basis for a negative assessment about cloned meat in January from the European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies, which had "doubts as to whether cloning animals for food supply is ethically justified." The European Commission will consider both reports when deciding to approve cloned meat and dairy to be marketed within the 27-nation European Union, along with an EU-wide survey of opinion expected to be available in the fall.
How refreshing that the EU will consider both ethics and public opinion when deciding whether to approve a product for sale! The U.S. agencies rely on a more market-driven approach, which always seems to favor the rights of corporations to sell whatever minimally tested, maximally useless products they can dream up. As I've written before here, cloning animals for foods benefits a very small group financially, while potentially putting eaters at risk (in ways we can't quite imagine yet from such a young technology), as well as increasing the already horrifying amount of animal suffering we tolerate unquestioningly in exchange for cheap meat.
I couldn't agree more with the EU's ethics committee January statement that as of yet there are no "convincing arguments to justify the production of food from clones and their offspring." Just because we can do something, doesn't mean we should. At least not without a damn good reason.