Indicating that the European Commission’s 2013 draft proposals for a five-year EU ban on cloning animals and producing meat and dairy products from such livestock could be amended and made more onerous, some MEPs said they wanted any use of cloning rejected or banned permanently.
"Consumers don’t want it, farmers don’t need it and the suffering of all animals involved is severe and extreme," said Dutch leftist Green MEP Anja Hazekamp. She would like to see a permanent ban on animal cloning in the EU, and not just a temporary moratorium.
As proposed by the Commission in December 2013, the two draft directives aim to temporarily prohibit the cloning of cattle, pigs, sheep, goats and horses and to suspend any placing on the market of meat and dairy products from animal clones, the EU’s health and food safety commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis reminded MEPs.
However, the EU imports semen from cloned offspring which is used to inseminate animals in Europe, in parallel with insemination using conventional semen, he explained. "This leads to the issue of labelling and I know that you don’t share our views," Andriukaitis added, referring to MEPs’ concerns about the legislation not insisting on mandatory labelling of foodstuffs from cloned offspring and their descendants.
This would be very complicated and costly, weighing heavily on breeders, farmers and importers, the Commission said, upon proposing the draft directives in 2013. That said, the European Commission is working on a study to assess how much a potential labelling scheme for products from cloned offspring would cost and how it would work, Andriukaitis told MEPs. The study should be ready in October, he added.
German Green MEP Martin Häusling argued, however, that the report should have been ready already and suggested that the Commission was dragging its feet in producing the report to please the US, which allows animal cloning, as Brussels is currently negotiating a major free trade agreement with Washington DC. "If one is trying to avoid conflicts with the US because of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), the Commission should come out and say that," said the MEP.
Meanwhile, European demand for cloned animal products could be weak, even if they were ultimately legal, Donald Broom, emeritus professor of animal welfare at Cambridge University told the hearing. This was despite the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) concluding that food from cloned animals did not pose safety risks to humans.
"People would expect labelling," he added. From an animal welfare perspective, the negative consequences of animal cloning greatly outweigh the benefits, the professor told MEPs, noting the suffering of mothers carrying pregnancies with cloned embryos and the reduction of genetic diversity in farm animals.
However, while noting the challenges and problems associated with cloning, Jan Venneman, director of the European Forum of Farm Animal Breeders (EFFAB), asked MEPs to leave the draft directives proposed by the European Commission as they are. If the import of semen from cloned offspring is banned, for example, "there would be a huge administrative burden, traceability problems and trade problems with countries such as the US", he warned.