If some Americans somewhere are not already eating meat or drinking milk from clones, a new report by the European Food Safety Agency probably means it is only a matter of time.
Since last year when it first said meat and milk from clones are as safe for human consumption as any other meat and milk, the European FSA says no new scientific information has become available that would require it to change its position about the safety of animal clones and their offspring.
The report by the European scientific body brought calls from some European Commission members for safeguards on cloned meat and milk and for some American activists to demand that cloned products be labeled.
After another review of relevant scientific information, EFSA confirmed that mortality rates and the number of animals born with developmental abnormalities are higher in animal clones than in conventionally bred animals.
But in relation to food safety, EFSA said there is no indication that differences exist for meat and milk of clones and their progeny compared with those from conventionally bred animals.
However, there is still limited information available on cloning of species other than cattle and pigs, therefore at the moment risk assessment can be carried out only for those two species.
EFSA explains that in animal cloning a genetic copy of an animal is produced by replacing the nucleus of an unfertilized egg cell with the nucleus of a body (somatic) cell from an animal to form an embryo.
This technique is called somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT). The embryo is then transferred to a surrogate mother where it develops until birth. Reprogramming of the donor nucleus from the somatic cell — the process that regulates the resetting of the somatic cell nucleus to an embryonic nucleus — is considered the main source of adverse effects that may result in a clone’s developmental abnormalities.
The latest EFSA statement provides an update on the scientific developments on the cloning of farmed animals for food production with respect to food safety, as well as those aspects relating to the health and welfare of animal clones and their offspring. It also provides information on the efficiency of cloning in comparison with natural breeding and assisted reproductive technologies.
In addition to Europe, cloning is reported to be widespread in Argentina and Brazil.