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CLONING & FOOD: Milk from cloned cows given green light by UK Defra



                                  PART 1


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TITLE:   MILK FROM CLONED COWS GIVEN GREEN LIGHT BY DEFRA

SOURCE:  The Daily Telegraph, UK

AUTHOR:  Harry Wallop

URL:     http://www.telegraph.co.uk/foodanddrink/8341212/Milk-from-cloned-cows-given-green-light-by-Defra.html

DATE:    22.02.2011

SUMMARY: "Milk and meat from the offspring of cloned animals should be allowed to go on sale, according to a government minister. are the clearest sign that the Government will give the official green light to farmers and food companies who want to supply butchers and supermarkets with the controversial products. However, animal welfare campaigners said they were ?utterly dismayed? by the ministerial statement"

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MILK FROM CLONED COWS GIVEN GREEN LIGHT BY DEFRA

Milk and meat from the offspring of cloned animals should be allowed to go on sale, according to a government minister.

The comments are the clearest sign that the Government will give the official green light to farmers and food companies who want to supply butchers and supermarkets with the controversial products.

However, animal welfare campaigners said they were ?utterly dismayed? by the ministerial statement, saying it opened the door to widespread cloning, with consumers unable to tell whether they were eating meat originating a cloned animal or not.

The statement was made by Jim Paice, the food and farming minister, in response to a written question from Zac Goldsmith, the Conservative MP.

Currently the Food Standards Agency believes that any food company attempting to sell food from not just a cloned animal ? but crucially, also the offspring of a cloned animal ? needs to apply for a so-called ?novel food? licence.

Mr Paice pointed out that the Europe Commission interpreted the current food legislation differently from the FSA; the Commission believes the rules apply only to food from cloned animals themselves, not their offspring.

He added: ?For the future, the Government shares the Commission?s view that there should be no restrictions on the use of offspring of cloned animals.?

This is the most direct comment that a minister has made on cloning since a row broke out last summer when it emerged that meat from the offspring of a cloned cow had been sold unwittingly in butchers? shops without a licence being obtained. The discovery that such meat had entered the food chain triggered an ill-tempered debate into the ethics of cloning animals. Animal welfare campaigners have said that cloned animals suffer far more than standard animals.

Mr Paice?s comments suggested that the Government believed in future it would support any farmer selling milk or meat from a cloned animal and that there was no need for them to receive any licence.

His comments followed a statement from the Food Standards Agency at the end of last year, which said it could find no scientific evidence that there was any reason why cloned meat or milk could not be eaten safely.

An independent study commissioned by the FSA found that issues over allergies, toxins and possible side effects of eating cloned meat ?did not highlight any issues of concern?. The FSA is in the final stages of a consultation about cloned food. Its final report will be presented to the Government in the next few weeks.

Emma Hockridge, head of policy at the Soil Association, the leading organic certification body, said: ?It is unacceptable that the Government has come to this conclusion without adequate evidence. The impact of cloned foodstuffs on human health cannot at this point be adequately assessed on the basis of existing scientific data.

?At a time when Government is expressing a desire to move towards ?honest labelling? of food, so consumers understand what they are purchasing and know its provenance, cloned animals and their offspring should not be allowed to enter the food chain.?

Compassion in World Farming said it was ?utterly dismayed? that the Government appeared to be championing cloned food. Peter Stevenson, the chief policy adviser to the charity, said: ??We don?t want any cloned meat, or meat from the offspring of cloned animals. There is clear evidence that it causes suffering.

?At the very least there should be a clear labelling regime, allowing consumers to chose.?

A report from New Zealand this week suggested just one in ten cloned animals survived into adulthood.

Agricultural specialists, have always pointed out that cloning was no more than a natural extension of many long-established farming techniques such as embryo splitting and artificial insemination.

The farmer, at the centre of last year?s furore, said he was cheered by the ministerial statement. He owns 90 heifers, which are the second-generation offspring of a cloned cow. They are one-and-a-half years old and not yet ready to produce milk, but he said he wanted to be able to sell that milk when the time came.

Steven Innes, the farmer, said: ?It?ll be normal milk, no different from any other. We would much rather keep the heifers and sell the milk, instead of selling the heffers to Europe.

?We?ll get a good price for them in Europe, but realistically, the milk will end up being exported back to Britain in the form of cheese or ready meals and British consumers will be eating in one way or other.?



                                  PART 2

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TITLE:   CALL FOR UK LEGISLATION TO CONTROL CLONED PRODUCTS

SOURCE:  GM Freeze, UK

AUTHOR:  Press Release

URL:     http://www.gmfreeze.org/page.asp?id=481&iType=

DATE:    08.02.2011

SUMMARY: "In response to a Food Standards Agency consultation, GM Freeze has called for interim legislation to bring the current presence of the offspring of clones in the UK under regulatory control. Last August it was revealed that meat from the offspring of a cloned cow had already entered the food chain, and that there were at least 96 calves with cloned parents alive in the UK, which could produce milk or meat in the future."

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CALL FOR UK LEGISLATION TO CONTROL CLONED PRODUCTS

In response to a Food Standards Agency (FSA) consultation, GM Freeze has called for interim legislation to bring the current presence of the offspring of clones in the UK under regulatory control. [1]

Last August it was revealed that meat from the offspring of a cloned cow had already entered the food chain, and that there were at least 96 calves with cloned parents alive in the UK, which could produce milk or meat in the future. [2]

At their December meeting the FSA Board recommended that meat and milk from the offspring of clones should not be required to gain approval under the Novel Foods Regulations before appearing on supermarket shelves ? a reversal of the FSA?s stated policy in August. [3]

In their response to a FSA consultation, which closes on 10 February, GM Freeze describes this about turn as ?premature and unjustified?, saying it, ?would effectively give cloning the go ahead in the UK without a means to regulate it or label products (as consumers overwhelmingly demand).?

GM Freeze also point out that there is a strong case for banning cloning and associated products on grounds of animal welfare alone and quote the European Group on Ethics (EGE) in Science and New Technologies [4], who said:

?Considering the current level of suffering and health problems of surrogate dams and animal clones, the Group has doubts as to whether cloning for food is justified?At present, the EGE does not see convincing arguments to justify the production of food from clones and their offspring.?

GM Freeze say that in view of the fact that the Novel Foods Regulations don?t include animal welfare, there is an urgent need for the UK Government to introduce interim legislation to bring the current situation in the UK under regulatory control. The proposed law would ban the sale of products from clones and their off spring and make clones and their progeny fully traceable. GM Freeze says a UK interim regulation banning the sale of products from clones or their offspring would allow time for ?a reasoned debate to take place about the future of cloning, free from the distraction of cloned products entering the market?.

The EU is currently examining what legislation is needed to control cloning and cloned products after the European Parliament voted for a full ban in July 2010, as well as for an immediate moratorium until that ban can be enacted.

Pete Riley of GM Freeze said:

?The current EU regulations do not allow cloning to be properly regulated so that safety, animal welfare, possible environmental impacts ethics can all be considered.

?It will take the EU some time to get the rules agreed, and therefore it is necessary to ensure that the current presence of the offspring of clones in the UK is properly regulated and products cannot be sold as food. There is deep public concern about the use of cloning in farm animals, and we believe people would welcome interim UK laws until the EU brings forward the ban the Parliament voted for. Defra and the FSA simply cannot evade the issue any longer.?

Notes

[1] The FSA consultation issued on 13 January 2011 asked for views on whether products from the offspring of cloned animals should be regulated under the Novel Foods Regulation.

[2] ?Clone farming has arrived?. Daily Mail, 10 January 2007. See www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-427714/Clone-farming-arrived.html.

?100 clone cows on UK farms: Shocking evidence of how ?super calves? have secretly spread into our food system?. Daily Mail. 3 August 2010. See

www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1299773/100-clone-cows-UK-farms-How-Super-calves-spread-food-system.html#ixzz1B1pm8rPW,

?Clone beef?s been on sale: After clone milk, now food watchdogs launch an investigation into illegal meat sold in British shops?. Daily Mail. 4 August 2010. See www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1300097/Clone-beefs-sale-After-clone-milk-investigation-launched-illegal-meat.html.

[3] See Update on Cloning of Animals for Food Production at www.gmfreeze.org/uploads/clones_2011_FINAL.pdf for details of the FSA policy about face.

[4] The European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies to the European Commission, 2008. Ethical aspects of animal cloning for food supply - Opinion No 23 http://ec.europa.eu/european_group_ethics/publications/docs/opinion23_en.pdf.



                                  PART 3

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TITLE:   FOOD FROM DESCENDANTS OF CLONED ANIMALS: HAVE YOUR SAY

SOURCE:  Soil Association, UK

AUTHOR:  Press Release

URL:     http://www.soilassociation.org/News/NewsItem/tabid/91/smid/463/ArticleID/1545/reftab/57/Default.aspx

DATE:    08.02.2011

SUMMARY: "The Soil Association has written to the Food Standards Agency outlining our concerns about their new view that there are no food safety grounds for regulating the meat and milk from the offspring from cloned cattle and pigs. The Soil Association believes that the impact of foodstuffs from cloned animals on human health can not at this point be adequately assessed on the basis of existing scientific data. The Soil Association is also opposed to the cloning process because it is so damaging to animal welfare."

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FOOD FROM DESCENDANTS OF CLONED ANIMALS: HAVE YOUR SAY

The Soil Association has written to the Food Standards Agency outlining our concerns about their new view that there are no food safety grounds for regulating the meat and milk from the offspring from cloned cattle and pigs. The Soil Association believes that the impact of foodstuffs from cloned animals on human health can not at this point be adequately assessed on the basis of existing scientific data. The Soil Association is also opposed to the cloning process because it is so damaging to animal welfare.

In a letter to interested parties, the Food Standards Agency asked for views on a potential change in its interpretation of the Novel Foods Regulation.

You can read the Soil Association response below, and if you would also like to respond yourself, you have until Thursday 10th February to do so. You can send your response to Dr Sandy Lawrie Head of Novel Foods Unit at novelfoods@foodstandards.gsi.gov.uk

More information about the cloning issue can be found on our website.

FOOD FROM DESCENDANTS OF CLONED ANIMALS: SOIL ASSOCIATION RESPONSE

Dear Dr Sandy Lawrie,

We write in response to your letter (13th January 2011) regarding the potential change of the FSA?s advice on the interpretation of the novel foods regulation (Regulation (EC) 258/97) in respect of food from the descendants of cloned cattle and pigs.

The Soil Association is extremely concerned that the FSA is considering changing its advice to the position that ?there are no food safety grounds for regulating foods from the descendants of cloned cattle and pigs.? The Soil Association believes that the impact of cloned foodstuffs on human health can not at this point be adequately assessed on the basis of existing scientific data. In particular there have been no long-term studies into possible impacts. Indeed, the EFSA Scientific Committee in its scientific opinion on cloning acknowledges that:

?Uncertainties in the risk assessment arise due to the limited number of studies available, the small sample sizes investigated and, in general, the absence of a uniform approach that would allow all the issues relevant to this opinion to be more satisfactorily addressed.?

A detailed reading of their advice shows that it is littered with issues where the scientific research on human health impacts is considered inadequate or limited: With regard to the compositional comparison of meat and milk derived from clones and progeny of clones, the EFSA clearly states that ?it should be acknowledged that the data base is limited.? The inadequacy of the research in relation to the toxicity and allergenicity testing of meat and milk products from cloned animals is particularly worrying. The Scientific Committee warn that

?Conventional toxicity tests are designed for individual chemicals and have major limitations for the testing of whole food. Foodstuffs are bulky, lead to satiation and can only be included in laboratory animal diets at lower multiples of expected human intakes. In addition, a key factor to consider in conducting animal studies on whole foods is the nutritional value and balance of the diets used, to avoid the induction of adverse effects, that are not related directly to the material itself (ACNFP, 1998). The testing of large amounts of milk and meat may be a particular problem in laboratory rodents with respect to departure from their normal diet, which is primarily plant-based.?

Thus, it concludes that in relation to toxicity and allergenic testing ?These results are only indicative as the rat and mouse models are not specific for human allergenicity predictive testing.?

The Committee warns of other potential problems with clones With regard to veterinary drug residue levels it states: ?As animal clones generally need more intensive care? the use of veterinary medicinal products for treatment may be greater than that in their natural comparators.?

With regard to public health risks it concludes ??as information is limited on the immunological competence of clones, it is unclear, in cases where the pathogen is zoonotic in nature, whether or not the prevalence of such infection or infestation (and related public health risk) is the same as that of the conventionally produced animal.?

In its letter the FSA requests views on the wider impacts of the Agency?s change in its advice. A very significant impact concerns animal welfare. The Soil Association is opposed to the cloning process because it is damaging to animal welfare at all stages of the cloning process. Cloned animals and their surrogate mothers suffer a variety of health problems and abnormalities. These are noted by the EFSA Scientific Committee in addition to their clear acknowledgement of the inadequate state of the scientific research in this area:

?A significant proportion of clones, mainly within the juvenile period for bovines and perinatal period for pigs, has been found to be adversely affected, often severely and with fatal outcome.?

?? clones and their progeny have not yet been studied throughout the whole of their natural life span.?

?The current welfare assessment is extrapolated from mainly animal health data. The welfare of both the surrogate dam and a significant proportion of clones has been found to be affected by the adverse health outcomes observed.?

The FSA also invites comments on the potential economic impact of the change. The uncertainties surrounding many of the impacts of cloning are potential economic risks to the agricultural sector. As previously mentioned there are risks over animal disease. The reduction of genetic diversity could also have an impact in this regard; as the EFSA states ?An increased homogeneity of a genotype within a population may increase the susceptibility of an animal population to infection and other risk factors.?

The presence of unlabelled cloned meat and milk in the food chain could have a negative impact on consumer trust in the foodchain. The unlabelled use of cloned farm animals fundamentally undermines the freedom of choice of farmers and consumers to avoid these animals and products, because of a lack of transparency in their regulation and traceability.

The FSA state that this ruling ??would be in line with the current view of the European Commission and others.? However, the FSA fails to acknowledge that in July 2010 the European Parliament voted for a moratorium on cloning and imports while the legislative framework for a ban is agreed.

At a time when Government is expressing a desire to move towards ?honest labeling? of food, so consumers understand what they are purchasing and know its provenance, cloned animals should not be allowed to enter the food chain. Consumers have the right to know what they are buying and the production processes and values behind their food and drink. The FSA used to say it would defend this consumers right to know. This proposal suggests your priorities have changed.

Yours sincerely, Isobel Tomlinson, Policy and Campaigns Officer