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EU talks on banning food from cloned animals collapse

Despite agreement on banning food from a cloned animal, all-night negotiations to introduce legislation on the issue broke down today.

File photo of cloned dairy cows in the US, December 2006.
File photo of cloned dairy cows in the US, December 2006.
Image: AP Photo/Chris Gardner

EU NEGOTIATORS TODAY abandoned widely popular new legislation that would have banned cloning animals to produce food after all-night talks bogged down in disagreement.

Last-ditch negotiations ended this morning after representatives of the European Parliament and the EU governments could not find a compromise on how to treat the offspring of cloned animals — despite overwhelming agreement on banning food from the actual clone.

The collapse of talks caps three years of back and forth between the parliament and the European Council, which represents the 27 EU states, on the so-called “novel food” regulation. It leaves the EU with its 1997 law that requires special authorisation for food from cloned animals, but does not ban it.

More than 60 per cent of EU citizens think animal cloning is “morally wrong,” while 84 per cent are concerned that the long-term effects of animal cloning on nature are unknown, according to an EU survey from 2008.

However, Sandor Fazekas, Hungary’s minister of rural development who was leading negotiations for the Council, said the parliament’s demand to include the meat and other products from descendants of cloned animals in the ban was “misleading” and “unfeasible.”

Even requiring clear labeling for food derived from the descendants of cloned animals “in practice would have required drawing a family tree for each slice of cheese or salami,” Fazekas said in a statement.

“This ‘solution’ would have given a false sense of security to consumers and risked dragging us into a full blown trade war,” he added.

The European Commission, which proposed the original regulation in 2008, said there was no scientific proof of negative health effects from eating cloned animals, but added that there were animal welfare issues with cloning.

“From the first offspring onwards there is no animal welfare issue, said John Dalli, the commissioner for health and consumer policy.

That’s why the Commission proposed a temporary ban of cloning to produce food in the EU as well as the banning the import of such food, Dalli said.

However, Dalli did not give outright supportto the Council’s claim that labeling food from the offspring of cloned animals would break international trade rules, saying only that any regulation on that would have required a feasibility study that would have looked into trade issues.

The parliament meanwhile slammed member states’ unwillingness to compromise.

“I am shocked by the approach of the EU ministers and their disregard for the will of EU citizens,” said Dagmar Roth-Berendt, a member of the European Parliament for the European Socialists, who took part in the 12-hour-long marathon talks. “Cloning is unnecessary and ethically unjustifiable. We do not live in a state of emergency where sheep, pigs and cows have to produce bigger proceeds.”

She said the failure to come up with new legislation will hurt European consumers and risks Europe being flooded with “billions of liters of cloned milk.”

Other MEPs said focusing just on the actual clones defeated the purpose of the legislation, since it was the offspring of clones that was much more likely to be used for food.

“It is little more than window-dressing to ban cloning in Europe but allow the import of reproductive material from clones and selling food from the offspring of clones,” said Bart Staes, an MEP for the Green Party.

- AP

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