EFSA reaffirms safety view of cloned meat and dairy products

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Cloning

Meat and dairy products from cloned pigs and cattle are probably safe for human consumption, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) concluded in its scientific opinion on animal cloning released today.

The EFSA assessment was commissioned by the European Commission in February 2007, and follows a public consultation on the draft opinion it published earlier this year.

The risk assessor said that it looked into existing data on the safety of cloned pigs and cattle; however, it warned that the data available was 'limited'. Most of the studies conducted to date have been of small sample size and there is little information on animals remaining alive for considerable periods.

Professor John Collins, chair of EFSA's Biohaz Panel, one of ten scientific panels that make up the regulator's Scientifc Committee, said the premise that healthy meat comes from healthy animals informed the work of the Committee.

He said that based on the knowledge available there was no evidence to indicate that cloned meat and dairy goods were any different from conventional products.

However, he told FoodProductionDaily.com that the panel strongly recommends that the health and welfare of clones should be monitored throughout both their production and natural life span to allow the current opinion to be updated in the light of future developments or new data.

The Committee, in its assessment, said there are significant welfare issues and health problems for surrogate mothers and clones that can be more frequent and severe than for conventionally bred animals.


The animal cloning process uses DNA technology to produce multiple, exact copies of a single gene or other segment of DNA, creating an animal with exactly the same genetic make-up as another currently or previously existing animal.

It could allow breeders to introduce strains of animals with increased disease resistance and other qualities.


Philip Hambling, Food Policy Manager with the British Meat Processing Association (BMPA), said the EFSA findings were not surprising, being closely aligned to similar conclusions from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

He told FoodProductionDaily.com that while the BMPA was satisfied that the risks to human health from cloned animal products were low or minimal, it was too early to determine exactly what the benefits of animal cloning technology for the meat industry were.

He added that as the meat sector was consumer driven and with the general public so far displaying strong resistance to such products, more debate around the ethical and social implications of cloning is required.

Consumer attitudes

Consumer resistance is bound to pose a problem, given the level of high concern surrounding attempts to introduce genetically-modified foods in Europe.

A survey released last month by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) showed that UK consumers believe risk analysis on animal cloning and products from cloned animals and their offspring entering the food chain should be as thorough as drug research.

Particular areas of concern for consumers related to what benefits they may receive from consuming the products, and what the consequences may be.

"[Those surveyed​] struggled to find any tangible consumer benefits", ​said the FSA, and the respondents expressed concern that the main motive would be "financial, for biotech companies, livestock breeders, farmers or food retailers."

Long term impact

Respondents were also worried that food products from cloned animals or their offspring could be unsafe for human consumption, somehow creating new diseases. The fear is that the impact on human health would be seen only a long time in the future, after the products had been in the food chain for many years.

Such reactions are likely to increase concerns amongst food manufacturers that the public perception of cloning remains negative. Many are already wary about developments in the cloning arena.


Earlier this year, a group of MEPs called on the European Commission to prohibit cloning of animals for food. The resolution approved by the MEP Intergroup on Animal Welfare calls on the Commission to submit proposals to prohibit animal cloning and the placing on the market of meat or dairy products derived from cloned animals or their offspring.

The MEPs were joined in their concerns by the European Group on Ethics and New Technologies (EGE), which in January issued a statement saying it did not see "convincing arguments to justify the production of food from clones and their offspring."

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