BRUSSELS (AFP) — The European parliament on Wednesday urged the EU's executive branch to ban the cloning of animals for the food trade, citing reduced genetic diversity among other concerns.
"Today MEPs showed they care about animals by voting for a ban on cloning for food. We now call on the Commission to follow their good example and come up with a strong proposal that will protect the welfare of animals," said Neil Parish, president of the Parliamentary Intergroup on Animal Welfare.
Several expert groups, including the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies, outlined problems such as the animals' well-being and the higher mortality rate of cloned animals.
They also stressed that cloning coould considerably reduce the gene pool diversity and increase the risk of whole herds being hit by an illness they are all particularly susceptible to.
Curerently cloned animal products are not sold in Europe or elsewhere.
A US moratorium on such products, introduced in 2001, has been questioned by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which said in January that cloned farm animals were just as viable as their traditionally raised counterparts.
"The implications of the cloning of animals for food supply have not been adequately studied," the European parliament said in its resolution.
The practice "poses a serious threat to the image and substance of the European agricultural model, which is based on product quality, environment-friendly principles and respect for stringent animal welfare conditions," the parliament said.
It called on the European Commission, the EU's executive arm, to "submit proposals prohibiting the cloning of animals for food supply purposes," as well as the offspring of cloned animals and the import of such animals.
An EFSA report in July said that while cloning can threaten the health of livestock, there was "no clear evidence" that consuming meat and milk from cloned animals is a risk to humans.
The prospect of meat and milk from cloned animals ending up on supermarket shelves is a hot-button issue in Europe, with authorities eager to avert crisis over so-called Frankenfoods.
The European Commission is currently mulling whether food derived from cloned animals should be allowed.
The commission has promised to take into account public opinion as well as scientific evidence.
The Eurogroup on Animals hailed the overwhelming parliamentary vote with 630 MEPs voted in favour of the move and only 32 against.
"After MEPs voted with such an overwhelming majority to oppose cloning of animals for food, the Commission can't afford to ignore their message," the group's director Sonja Van Tichelen said.
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