10 Sep 2015   |   News

European parliament votes for extensive animal cloning ban

Ban will not extend to scientists, who may still use cloning technology as a research tool

The European Parliament has voted to ban the cloning of all farm animals as well as the sale of cloned livestock, their offspring, and products derived from them. The ban does not cover cloning for research purposes, nor does it prevent efforts to clone endangered species.

The draft measure, which passed by a large margin, beefed up the European Commission’s initial proposal in 2013, which would provisionally have prohibited the cloning of just five species: cattle, pigs, sheep, goats and horses.

MEPs widened the ban to incorporate all imported meat and milk products from the descendants of cloned animals, and included a call to implement a system to guarantee the traceability of these products.

"[We are sending] the message to our trade partners that we are not willing to put our own health, our families' health, and future generations' health at stake using products of dubious quality of this nature," said Italian MEP Giulia Moi.

Along with many other parliamentarians and members of the public, Moi is suspicious that Brussels could allow widespread use of animal cloning and genetically modified foods under the terms of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership being negotiated with the US.

EU Food and Health Safety Commissioner Vytenis Andriukatitis said extra restrictions were not justified, arguing that descendants of cloned animals showed no health problems, while a complete ban might be difficult to police.

Tracing the lineage of products would be a monumental effort, he said, and would push up the price of meat. Also, such a ban could provoke retaliation by trade partners.

The supporters of the ban also cited animal welfare concerns, claiming that the mortality rate of cloned animals is unacceptably high, with many offspring not surviving long.

The Parliament will now negotiate with member states, represented by the European Council, on a final version of the regulation. The Commission will act as mediator.

Never miss an update from Science|Business

Newsletter sign-up