More Evidence Needed On Cloned Food

26 November 2010
SNP Member of the European Parliament's Agriculture Committee Mr Alyn Smith has today (Friday) called for further research into novel foods before any consideration of allowing meat or milk from cloned animals into the human food chain.
Smith's comments come in the wake of statements by the Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes which said that it believed that food from these sources was unlikely to present any risk and that there was no substantial difference between meat and milk from cloned animals and produce from conventional livestock. These findings confirm Smith's original view that there is no risk to human health from cloned food.

However, while this finding is welcome, Smith remains in favour of a precautionary ban on cloned produce entering the human food chain because of practical considerations over the potentially significant and rapid impact that such techniques could have on the animal gene pool, as well as animal welfare considerations, given that cloning remains a very imprecise science.

As well as further research into the impact of cloning on both human health and animal welfare, Smith has also called for a full stock take of the genetics of agriculture. Smith spent a day in 2008 shadowing an Artificial Insemination technician around farms in Dumfries and Galloway as part of his regular summer work experience, specifically to acquaint himself with the issues around the genetics of agriculture.

Smith said:

"Sometimes, as in all things, science moves faster than human morality or sentiment can keep up with, and we must recognise that there is a lot of concern over cloning, with good reason.  While there is presently no evidence of a threat to humans, I think that until we have more thoroughly investigated the impact of this science in a calm and rational manner, we should maintain a ban on its inclusion in the food chain.  

"A particular reservation I have on this is the rapid impact that cloning could have on the animal gene pool, with potentially massive limiting effects within a few generations, in less than a decade. I was pleased that the European Commission committed to establishing a traceability system for cloned animals in its recent proposals on this matter, and this should ensure that there is proper regulation and control of this technique while more work can be done to properly assess its impact. It is vital that the regulatory framework for this relatively new technology with such a potentially disproportionate impact is right.

"Further research will not only ventilate the existing science behind this technology, but it will also scout out the likely effects of future developments, allowing us to weigh up the benefits and disadvantages on a rational basis."