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Scientists, consumers and farmers all call for a ban on cloning 07.03.08

A monster coalition of farmers, scientists, consumers, environmentalists and animal welfare campaigners has written an open letter to the European Commission to call for an immediate ban on the cloning of animals for food production, and on the import and sale of imported food products from cloned animals and their offspring.

Signatories from 20 different organisations point out that cloning is inefficient, would greatly reduce genetic diversity within livestock populations, and would encourage people to view farm animals as commodities rather than sentient beings.

The participation of such diverse organisations indicates how widespread concerns about cloning are and how strong opposition against it is. The coalition includes organisations such as European Farmers Coordination, Scientists for Global Responsibility, Friends of the Earth, and European Public Health Alliance.

Gérard Choplin, coordinator of the European Farmers Coordination, said: "Animal cloning does not favour either sustainable farming or food sovereignty, contradicts the aims of agricultural biodiversity action plans and implies greater transnational company control of farmers and farming.”

Rodrigo Gouveia, secretary general of Euro Coop, the European Association of Consumer Cooperatives, said: “Cloning does not have any added-value for consumers and does not reflect any of their needs or expectations. Moreover if such products were to reach the European market, it would raise major concerns regarding consumer’s fundamental right to be informed about the food they buy.”

Sonja Van Tichelen, director of Eurogroup for Animals which initiated the open letter, added: “It is great news that organisations representing anything from farmers, to consumers and scientists have joined the fight against cloning of animals for food. It shows that there are a lot of concerns about cloning and that opposition to it is widespread and growing.

“Cloning represents a terrible waste of animal lives. It takes many animals just to produce one successful clone. And the ones who do survive suffer from more defects than non-cloned animals and die much earlier.”

According to scientific research, the success rate for clone foetuses reaching term is 0.5% to 5%.

The EU faces increasing pressure to ban the cloning of animals for food after it announced it was considering whether to approve it. The European Group on Ethics, which advises the European Commission, said in its final opinion published on 17 January that it “does not see convincing arguments to justify the production of food from clones and their offspring”. And on 20 February members of the European Parliamentary Intergroup on Animal Welfare called for the European Commission to prohibit cloning of animals for food and any products from cloned animals and their offspring. Their resolution is expected to be presented to the European Parliament within the coming weeks.

The European Food Safety Authority finished a public consultation on its draft opinion on cloning for food on 25 February.

If the European Union were to approve cloning for food, products from cloned animals and their offspring could be on the market within the next few years. Once these products have been allowed, it will be difficult to identify them as being from cloned animals and their offspring.

Several scientific studies suggest food products from cloned animals and their offspring are different to that of normal animals. There is still much scientific debate about whether cloned animals are really healthy. Cloning pioneer Rudolf Jaenisch said there is strong evidence that cloned animals even if they survive after birth have serious gene-expression abnormalities.

Repeated surveys in the UK have show consumer reluctance to eat cloned animal at an even higher level than their reluctance to eat genetically modified crops. At a time when the issues of the nutrition and healthy eating are centring on reducing the modern Western diet emphasis on meats and diary produce and increasing the move to push cloning can only be seen not in the interest of consumers but the interest of the bio-tech companies.

Peter Shield

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