Cloned Meat: Our viewYour guide to the issues around cloned meat

03 October 2010

The meat cloning debate has thrown up more questions than answers. Which? chief policy advisor Sue Davies lays out our concerns.

Two cows in a field eating grass.

What does Which? think should be done about cloning?

It’s essential that consumers know what they’re eating and can decide whether or not to eat the products of clones or their offspring. It’s also important that food products from clones are approved before they go on sale and that they can be traced across the supply chain.

Until this is sorted out, products should not be on sale. We have been calling for the legislation to be clarified and tightened, and we’ll continue to lobby on this and push for effective enforcement.

For more information about Which?'s campaigning work, go here. 

How did meat and perhaps even milk enter British food supplies?

Cloning is already taking place in the US and other countries, but tracing the products of these animals, their offspring, embryos and semen can be difficult as they are traded internationally.

The animals that are being investigated originate from eight embryos from a cloned cow in the US. Meat and milk from the offspring of the clones entered the food chain.

Are there safety concerns around eating cloned food?

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has concluded that there are no new food safety issues raised by the use of clones or their offspring, compared with food from other animals. But the EFSA highlighted that there was limited data to assess the implications of cloning and could only give an opinion for cattle and pigs.

Are there any animal welfare issues with cloning?

EFSA raised far more significant concerns around animal health and welfare issues. There’s an increased proportion of pregnancy failure in animals carrying clones, and their offspring are often larger in size - so caesareans are far more common.

Is there any way I can tell if I’m buying cloned food?

No. They’re not currently labelled in any way as they shouldn't be on the market.

Are there any rules and controls around cloning?

There’s some confusion about this and EU legislation is a hot topic that’s under review. The Food Standards Agency (FSA) believes that these products have entered the food chain illegally, since it interprets existing legislation to mean that cloned animals must be assessed and approved before they can be sold.

What’s the public’s take on cloning food?

A Which? survey in February 2008 found that just 13% agreed that cloning should be used to produce animals for food production and 80% said that they would prefer to buy foods that were not produced using cloned animals.

Some 80% of those asked were concerned about eating dairy or other products from these animals and 91% thought that foods produced using cloned animals should be clearly labelled.

Why is cloning used?

Cloning is a way of producing genetically identical animals, allowing offspring to be produced from animals that have desirable characteristics. 

The genetic material of a cell from an animal the breeder wants to make a copy of is swapped with the genetic material from a female animal’s egg so that it develops into an embryo. This is then transplanted into the uterus of a surrogate female to carry out the pregnancy.

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