Source: Scientific American
Dear EarthTalk: What's the story with animal cloning? Is the meat industry really cloning animals now to "beef up" production?
— Frank DeFazio, Sudbury, MA
World's first sheep clones. The faces of identical insMeganins and insMoragins, the world's first cloned sheep aged 9 months. These Welsh Mountain sheep were the product of research by Dr. Ian Wilmut and colleagues at the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh, Scotland. The research involved culturing identical embryonic cells from sheep to produce a inscell lineins. Next, a sheep egg cell had its DNA removed, and one of these embryonic cells was implanted into the egg. A spark of electricity then stimulated the egg to grow into a lamb, nourished in the womb of a surrogate sheep. This achievement, in 1996, of cloned farm animals, may provide benefits to agriculture and biotechnology.
Cloning has been controversial ever since Scottish scientists announced in 1996 that they had cloned their first mammal, a sheep they named Dolly. While Dolly lived a painful, arthritic life and died prematurely, possibly due to the imperfections of cloning, industry nonetheless began seeking out ways to capitalize on the new technology. Meanwhile, critics bemoan cloning as immoral and a potential health and safety risk, given the as-yet-unknown consequences of eating foods generated in this way.
In January 2008, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the sale of cloned animals and their offspring for food, despite fierce opposition from animal welfare and consumer advocacy groups, environmental organizations, some members of Congress, and many consumers.
"Our evaluation is that the food from cloned animals is as safe as the food we eat every day," said Stephen Sundlof, the FDA's chief of veterinary medicine.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has asked that producers withhold cloned animals, but not their offspring, from the food supply while farmers, processors, grocery stores and restaurants decide how they will respond to the FDA's landmark decision.
Unsurprisingly, industry groups also argue that beef and milk from cloned animals is safe to consume. They cite a 2005 University of Connecticut study, which concluded that beef and milk from cloned cows did not pose any health or safety threats to people consuming it. But critics say that the oft-cited single study was far too limited to yield any meaningful conclusions: Milk and beef was taken from just six cloned animals, and the study did not take into account whether clones were more susceptible to infection or other microbial problems, as many scientists suspect. Other researchers have noted severe deformities in many cloned animals, as well as a higher incidence of reproductive, immune and other health problems.
The Washington, DC-based Center for Food Safety, in a petition it filed in late 2006, declared: "The available science shows that cloning presents serious food safety risks, animal welfare concerns and unresolved ethical issues that require strict oversight." The group announced on September 2, 2008 that 20 leading U.S. food producers—including Kraft Foods, General Mills, Gerber/Nestle, Campbell's Soup and Ben and Jerry's—will not use cloned animals in their products. "The move by these companies represents a growing industry trend of responding to consumer demand for better food safety, environmental and animal welfare standards," the group said in making the announcement.
Given the FDA's green light, consumers' only hope of avoiding cloned animal products may be to appeal to businesses directly not to peddle such items. The Pennsylvania-based American Anti-Vivisection Society, which opposes all forms of animal research and testing, has mounted a campaign to urge McDonald's to forego cloned animals in its 30,000 restaurants worldwide.
CONTACTS: U.S. Food & Drug Administration, www.fda.gov; Center for Food Safety, http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org; American Anti-Vivisection Society, www.aavs.org.
GOT AN ENVIRONMENTAL QUESTION? Send it to: EarthTalk, c/o E/The Environmental Magazine, P.O. Box 5098, Westport, CT 06881; submit it at: www.emagazine.com/earthtalk/thisweek/, or e-mail: email@example.com. Read past columns at: www.emagazine.com/earthtalk/archives.php.
Ban not just animal cloning, but cloned food, feed and imports too, say MEPs
Source: EU Parliament News, 17 JUNE 2015
A draft law to ban the cloning of all farm animals, their descendants and products derived from them, including imports, in the EU was voted by the Environment and Agriculture committees on Wednesday. MEPs beefed up the European Commission's initial proposal, citing high mortality rates at all development stages of cloning and EU citizens' animal welfare and ethical concerns.
"Due to the negative effects on animal welfare, cloning for farming purposes is rejected by a large majority of consumers. Furthermore, we do not need cloning to ensure meat supplies in the EU. Prohibiting cloning is therefore a matter of European values and principles. Consequently, the ban should apply not only to clones themselves but also to their reproductive material (semen and embryos), their descendants and any products derived from them, including imports. This is necessary because otherwise we would merely promote cloning in third countries", said Environment Committee co-rapporteur Renate Sommer (EPP, DE).
"There are two key points that we focused on from the outset: protecting the health of EU citizens and consumers and extending the ban to cover the descendants of cloned animals", said co-rapporteur law Giulia Moi (EFDD, IT). "The ban on placing animal clones or their offspring on the EU market is a red line for us. We are well aware that cloning is allowed in certain third countries that EU trades with, but we cannot allow these products to be placed on the EU market. We also want to ensure that cloning of animals would not become a common practice within the EU" she added.
The committees' text, approved by 82 votes to 8 with 8 abstentions, changes the form of the legal act from a directive, which EU countries would have had to transpose into their national laws, into a regulation, which would apply directly in all of them. MEPs also extended the ban's scope to cover all species of animals kept and reproduced for farming purposes (instead of only bovine, ovine, caprine and equine species, as proposed by the Commission).
Descendants and germinal products
MEPs note that although animal welfare concerns might not be apparent in the case of descendants of cloned animals, as they are born by means of conventional sexual reproduction, in order for there even to be a descendant, a cloned animal progenitor is required, which entails significant animal welfare and ethical concerns. They therefore extended the ban to cover the germinal products of animal clones, descendants of animal clones and products derived from them.
Given that animals are already cloned for farming purposes in certain third countries, the law would make it illegal to import animals from third countries unless the import certificate shows that they are not animal clones or their descendants. Imports of animal germinal products and food and feed of animal origin would also have to be certified as not deriving from animal clones or their descendants.
High mortality rates at all development stages
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) said in a 2008 opinion that the health and welfare of a significant proportion of clones had been found to be adversely affected, often severely and with a fatal outcome. These effects contribute to cloning's low efficiency rates, of 6 to 15% for bovine and 6% for porcine species, and make it necessary to implant embryo clones into several dams in order to obtain one cloned animal. Furthermore, clone abnormalities and unusually large offspring result in difficult births and neonatal deaths.
Citizens disapprove of cloning
MEPs cite consumer research findings that EU citizens strongly oppose the consumption of food from animal clones or from their descendants and that the majority also disapprove of the use of cloning for farming purposes, on animal welfare and general ethical grounds.
No clones please, We're European
Source: The Telegraph UK | by Pete Wedderburn, 14 SEPTEMBER 2015
The EU Parliament voted last week to ban the cloning of animals. Furthermore, imports of descendents of cloned animals, and all clone-derived products have been banned from the European market. This decision stands the EU apart from many other countries: farmers in the United States, South America and China commonly use cloning as part of farm breeding programmes. If you can have ten cows producing high yielding dairy cow calves rather than one, it sounds like a useful boost in productivity. If you own an ultra-efficient meat producing pig, why not use technology to create an exact genetic replica? Isn't it like reproduction without the uncertainty of mixing male and female genes in the usual uncontrolled natural way?
The science behind cloning
The most commonly used technique for cloning is still somatic cell nucleus transfer (SCNT), the technique that was used to create Dolly the sheep back in 1996. A genetic copy of an animal is produced by replacing the nucleus of an unfertilised ovum (egg cell) with the nucleus of a body (somatic) cell from an adult animal. The resulting clone embryo is then transferred to a surrogate dam where it develops until birth. Cloning replicates the exact genetic make-up of the animal from which the cell was taken, producing a direct replica as a newborn animal. If you have a top class adult animal, cloning allows you to have a junior version of exactly the same animal.
So why has the EU just voted to ban cloning, and all clone-related products?
The answer is simple and refreshing: European law makers are concerned about the severe impact of cloning on animal welfare. The low efficiency rates of cloning(6% to 15% for cattle and 6% for pigs) means that multiple embryo clones need to be implanted into several dams to obtain one cloned animal. Additionally, clone abnormalities and the abnormally large size of newborn animals leads to a high incidence of difficult births and neonatal deaths. European consumers are clear that this is unacceptable, with 67% agreeing that there are ethical concerns for rejecting animal cloning.
Are European consumers traditionalist Luddites?
This is not an ill-informed Luddite fear of the unknown: the European Food Safety Authority is clear that no differences exist in terms of food safety for meat and milk of clones and their progeny compared with those from conventionally bred animals.
The European sentiment is based on the scientific fact that currently, cloning causes significantly more animal suffering than conventional breeding.
The truth: Europe cares more about animals than other trading blocks
So why is cloning allowed in other parts of the world? It's for the same reason that extreme factory farming is common in the same countries: either consumers don't care about animal welfare as much as Europeans, or more likely perhaps, consumers' concerns are disregarded in favour of a profit oriented agribusiness sector.
A final question: if the UK leaves the EU, what decision would this country make on cloning?