EFSA seeks cloned animal studies

By George Reynolds

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Efsa, European union, Food, European food safety authority

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has called on industry
and other groups to submit scientific information as part
of its review on cloned meat.

The request for scientific data is the next phase in forming an opinion that will be presented to the European Commission, which will then decide whether to allow cloned products to enter the food supply chain. EFSA said it encourages submission of peer reviewed data on issues such as the safety of consumption of meat, milk and eggs from clones and their offspring. Non peer reviewed data will only be considered if it is based on scientific evidence and meets adequate quality standards. EFSA has also asked for information on the comparative physiology of cloned and conventional animals and their offspring, including reproductive capacity, is requested. The review will also examine the technology of cloning, the heath and welfare of animals, as well the possible environmental implications. The data must be submitted before the 29 May deadline. EFSA expects to present the results of the review to the Commission within the next five months. If permitted, cloning could provide processors with a better quality of meat and other products, such as dairy. Cloning offers the possibility of creating strains of animals with increased disease resistance and other qualities. However, consumer reaction against cloned foods is bound to pose a problem, as happed in the case of attempts to introduce genetically-modified products in the bloc. At present in Europe cloning is not a commercial practice and there is no specific regulation on the authorisation of food products from cloned animals for human consumption in the EU. An urgent review of the technology and practice is required though, following the discovery of calf on cloned cow being raised on a UK farm earlier this year. That prompted talks involving food safety officials from the 27 member states, who decided that milk and meat from cloned animals and their offspring should be considered in the same way as any other novel food, such as genetically-modified organisms (GMOs). EFSA is the scientific risk assessor for novel foods proposed for introduction in the EU's food chain and so responsibility for providing an opinion for the Commission to make a final decisions fall on its shoulders. In the US, debate surrounding the issue gathered momentum in recent months, after the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said it planned to approve cloning for food production later this year. The US regulator has issued a consultation proposing to allow the product into the food chain without the need for labeling. An independent study in the US indicates that 60 per cent of Americans would not knowingly eat cloned meat. A 2002 EU survey found that Europeans were generally against any new foods that had been produced through new scientific advances - such as GMOs.

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