Cloning – the government out of step again with the consumer

Its nearly 4 years since the first off-spring of a cloned cow was born on a UK farm but it seems to me that the government is no more prepared than it was back then.

GM Freeze comment to the news that the governments advisory panel believes cloning is “safe hypothetically speaking”. And below my comments from Jan 07 when the first off-spring of a cloned cow was born on a UK farm

GM Freeze press release

Immediate Release   25 November 2010

Government Must Consider All Issues on Cloned Animals 

GM Freeze is calling on the Government to look at all issues including  food safety, animal welfare , ethics and socio-economics before deciding whether to allowed cloned animals, their off-spring and products into the UK. 

Today the Advisory Committee on Novel Food and Processes (ACNFP) issued an opinion that products of cloned animals are safe to eat. GM Freeze says that there is a lot of evidence that the cloning process has a profound impact on the health and welfare of the animals. Only a minority of cloned embryos survive to full term and the life expectancy of cloned offspring is low because of breathing difficulties, tumours and organ malfunction [1] and other less noticeable impacts could impact on the quality and safety of cloned products. 

The group say that cloning is also a retrogressive step for farming.  The introduction means that farmed livestock will be drawn from a shrinking gene pool at a time when many have realised that the inbreeding of dairy cattle for milk production has had a detrimental impact on the life their expectancy, reproduction and overall health. 

Earlier in 2010 the FSA admitted that they had no way of tracing cloned animals or their offspring in the UK [2]. The revelation in the summer of 2010 that cloned meat had already entered the market here came as a result of media coverage in the USA rather than the FSA’s own efforts to monitoring the movement of clones which they knew were in the country.

Cloning of farmed animals is not legal in the European Union and the European Parliament called for a moratorium in summer 2010 pending the introduction of legislation to regulate it. FSA opinion research show there is widespread public opposition to the introduction of cloning and a Which? survey in 2008 found 80% of people opposed. UK supermarkets have told GM freeze that they will no stock products from cloned sources  

Commenting Pete Riley of GM Freeze said;

“ Cloning is a highly controversial issue with little public support.  The very high death rate and existence of health problems in clones  points to the fact that  the impacts of cloning are poorly understood and we need to be looking in greater detail at the differences between clones and animals produced by conventional breed techniques. It takes livestock farming further down the route of intensification where high outputs to produce cheap food are the main objective. 

The Government and FSA must take the widest possible view of the impacts of cloning on our  food, farming and countryside including ethical, animal welfare and socio-economic as well as food safety.  The views of the public must also figure strongly.  

Cloning will be another step in making animals mere commodities that can be traded globally.  The high failure rate of cloning and its impact on the health and welfare of the animals must also be a major factor in deciding if cloning should go ahead”.   

ENDS

Calls to : Pete Riley 07903 341065

1. See http://www.rspca.org.uk/allaboutanimals/laboratory/biotechnology/clonedanimals

2. Quoted in the Daily Mail, 16 September 2010. See http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1312414/Clone-food-shops-years.html#ixzz0zgcT5J8n

CLONING  Jan 07

There was a terrible feeling of deja-vu about the media storm that followed the revelation that a daughter of a cloned cow has been born on a UK farm. 

Just as with the GM debacle the government seemed to be wholly unready for the public and media reaction against the use of this technology in the food chain. 

It took the Daily Mail to draw the nation’s attention to the latest failure of Defra by exposing the latest excess of genetic science imported from the USA and forcing Defra into admitting that they don’t know if cloned animals or their progeny are being imported into the UK. 

But Defra is so pro-genetic science that it is blind to the concerns of the public and has failed to introduce any regulation on the import of these animals 

This admission must have come as a surprise to the all milk and beef farmers who spend too much of their time in the tiresome bureaucratic exercise of ensuring that their cattle have the all paperwork that follows the animals from birth to slaughter. 

Now I am certainly not calling for more regulation to be imposed on farmers but the public are so nervous around cloning – and with good reason looking at the plethora of websites devoted to the issue and the number of eminent scientists warning against the irresponsible use of this powerful technology.

 After the furore that met Dolly the sheep and the recent statement from the Food Standards Agency in the USA that products from cloned animals can be allowed in the US food chain – fortunately the EU expressly forbids products from cloned animals into the EU food chain – it beggars belief that there is no appropriate regulation. 

It was even more disappointing to hear the NFU defending Defra’s incompetence and demanding that farmers should have ready access to cloning technology making the argument that dairy farmers need this technology to become more ‘ efficient’. 

Presumably ‘efficient’ means producing more milk for less return.

Many in the dairy industry, along with consumer organisations, now recognised that producing more and more milk at lower and lower farmgate prices is never going to address the problem of a failing dairy industry or secure supplies of high quality dairy products for the consumer. 

However a significant number of farmers are still wedded to the belief that technology will deliver greater yield and greater prices – and thus deliver them from all their problems. Even though the evidence of recent years, where increased production has led to lower prices, would suggest otherwise. 

It seems to me that farmers are on a technology treadmill that makes them run faster and faster but not get anywhere. I would argue that ensuring profitability is far more important than increasing output and that sometimes less can be more.

But my fear is that in adopting these technologies farmers risk alienating themselves from the public and will reduce public confidence in our products – and without public confidence and support the future really does look bleak.

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