Thursday, May 26, 2011
Unlabelled clone meat allowed on shop shelves as food safety proposals are ripped up
By Sean Poulter
May 26, 2011
Food from the offspring of cloned animals, including meat and milk, has been approved for sale without labels.
The Food Standards Agency yesterday tore up proposals that would have required it to go through a safety assessment.
It comes despite research showing eight in ten shoppers oppose the cloning of farm livestock.
Unlabelled food produced using the offspring of clones, such as dairy products, meat pies and ready meals, can now go on sale without any threat of legal action.
But animal welfare groups say the cloning technique is cruel, with a high number of miscarriages, deformities and gigantism.
And consumer groups say labels are essential to give shoppers choice.
The FSA’s decision is in line with Government policy, which supports clone farming and clone food without labels.
Ministers argue the offspring of clones are the same as animals produced through conventional breeding. They claim existing animal cruelty laws are sufficient to deal with any problems.
Advocates claim cloning can create herds of supersize animals able to produce vast amounts of milk and meat, so boosting profits.
Supporters of the sale of food from clone offspring include Dairy UK, which represents the country’s biggest milk and cheese producers, the Food and Drink Federation, which speaks for manufacturers, and the British Meat Processors Association.
But Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, the Co-op, Marks & Spencer and Waitrose have responded to customer concerns by pledging not to use meat or milk from clone offspring in their own-label products.
Until yesterday, the FSA had argued that meat and milk from the offspring of clones would have to be studied to ensure it was safe. But now the watchdog has concluded that there is ‘currently no evidence’ that it poses a food safety risk.
At least 100 clone offspring cattle are being reared on farms in this country. Most are at Newmeadow Holsteins, a dairy herd based at Nairn, North-East Scotland.
The cows are being reared for milk by Steven Innes and his family, who intend to sell the farm’s output on the British high street.
The FSA will retain a policing regime for food derived from clones created in the laboratory.
The organisation has stressed that it has no responsibility for food ethics and animal cruelty. This is the role of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, which has ruled in favour of cloning.
Richard Lloyd, executive director of consumer group Which?, described the FSA decision as ‘a disappointment for the eight in ten people who don’t want to eat cloned food’.
He said: ‘It’s vital that the FSA and the Government respect people’s desire to know what they’re eating and control the use of cloning technology in food. As well as an approval process, we want to see a tracking system and clear labelling of these goods on the supermarket shelf.’
Emma Hockridge, head of policy at the Soil Association, which supports organic farming, animal welfare and consumer choice, said she was ‘appalled’ by the decision.
‘Not only are there insufficient long-term studies into the impacts on human health, cloning is cruel and damaging to animal welfare at all stages of the process,’ she said.
A spokesman for Defra said it was up to retailers and producers to decide on a voluntary basis whether to label the foods involved.
She added: ‘Compulsory labelling would be unenforceable because there is no way to tell the descendants of clones from other animals.’