EFSA launches draft opinion on animal cloning

by Editor fleischwirtschaft.com
Monday, January 14, 2008

EFSA is launching a public consultation on its draft scientific opinion on the implications of animal cloning on food safety, animal health and welfare.

The opinion of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) will help inform consideration of any future EU measures in relation to animal clones and products obtained from these animals.

EFSA’s Scientific Committee (SC) – assisted by a Working Group of scientists – has led this work as it is a multi-disciplinary issue relevant to a number of the Panels’ respective areas of expertise.

Some of the key conclusions of the draft opinion include:
  • Although death and disease rates of clones are significantly higher than those observed in conventionally reproduced animals, healthy clones and their offspring indicate that somatic cell nucleus transfer (SCNT) can be successfully used as a reproductive technique in cattle and pigs. Based on a number of parameters including physiological and clinical ones, healthy clones and healthy offspring do not show any significant differences from their conventional counterparts.
  • The health and welfare of a significant proportion of clones have been found to be adversely affected. The proportion of unhealthy clones is likely to decrease as the technology improves.
  • Food products obtained from healthy cattle and pig clones and their offspring, i.e., meat and milk, are within the normal range with respect to the compositionand nutritional valueof similar products obtained from conventionally bred animals. In view of these findings, and assuming that unhealthy clones are removed from entering the food chain as is the case with conventionally bred animals, it is very unlikely that any difference exists in terms of food safety between food products originating from clones and their progeny compared with those derived from conventionally bred animals.
  • No environmental impact is foreseen as a result of animal cloning, but there is only limited data available.

This draft opinion acknowledges that SCNT is a relatively new technology and the available data for risk assessment are limited. Most studies have been of small sample size and the currently available data only allow for an assessment of cattle and pig clones and their progeny. In addition, as SCNT is a developing technology, information on animals reared and remaining alive for considerable periods of time is limited. Also, the current welfare assessment is largely based on interpretation of limited data.

EFSA is launching a consultation on its draft opinion. Comments can be submitted until 25 February 2008.