Cloning ban won't mean clone-free EU
The EU must implement a traceability system to ensure cloned meat from outside Europe doesn't enter our markets, argues Renate Sommer.
Would you like to eat meat from cloned animals? The answer is most likely to be no. That's because a large majority of European consumers continue to reject the idea of cloning and the notion of eating cloned animal meat. The reasons for this are essentially ethical. Around 77 per cent of European citizens fear that institutionalising cloning would inevitably lead to its use on human beings.
It's safe to assume that most consumers are not even aware of the animal welfare dimension of cloning. Studies show that clones and their descendants have a much higher mortality rate than normal breeds.
They die - often painfully - from cardiovascular failure, immuno-deficiencies, liver failure, respiratory problems, kidney dysfunctions and musculoskeletal abnormalities.
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The surrogate mothers are particularly affected. They suffer, for example, from placenta dysfunctions which contribute to increased levels of miscarriages.
What is more, surrogate dams have to undergo extensive hormonal treatment, undermining their general wellbeing and involving the use of drugs.
Given that the success rate of current cloning techniques is less than 10 per cent, the suffering inflicted on animal clones can certainly not be justified, especially as there is no need for cloning in Europe as we can meet our demand for meat through traditional breeding techniques.
All of these arguments against cloning unite not only consumers in their rejection of the technique, but also the parliament.
In all my 16 years as an MEP, I have never seen such widespread and cross-party agreement on an issue. Unfortunately, a simple 'no' from our side is not enough.
In our globalised world with its extensive international trade links, we have to face reality. Banning cloning on our continent will not make it 'clone-free'. Countries such as the US, Brazil and China use cloning, therefore products from cloned animals could still enter the EU food chain.
Five years ago, the conflict between our ethical standards and the realities of the international trade sector on the issue of cloning resulted in the failure of negotiations on novel foods.
However, leaving cloning unregulated does not solve the problem, and allows products from cloned animals to enter the EU market. It is therefore vital that we find a solution that is both feasible and acceptable to EU member state governments in council.
So how can we ensure that products from animal clones from third countries do not enter our market? If we do not want to ban all meat imports from countries that practice cloning, we must introduce a traceability system.
Critics claim that this would be too complicated to implement and that it would impose a disproportionate administrative burden on farmers in third countries. Well I have doubts about the validity of this argument.
The introduction of a traceability system for GMOs has shown that where there is a will, there is a way.
Of course, the scope of any traceability system has yet to be fully discussed; should we only include animal and embryo clones for example, or reproductive material derived from them and their descendants? If we do include descendants, then how many generations should be traced?
The vote on 17 June will show exactly where parliament stands on this key issue.
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