Cloning farm animals

There are no specific laws relating to cloned farm animals at present. Cloning animals is legal. However, in October 2010 the European Commission recommended a five year ban on the cloning of animals in the European Union, on the use of cloned animals and on the sale of food from cloned animals. Such recommendations have yet to be implemented.

Welfare of cloned animals

Cloned animals are afforded the same level of protection as any other animal. The welfare of cloned animals is covered by a number of pieces of legislation, the most significant being the Animal Welfare Act 2006 and the Welfare of Farmed Animals (England) Regulations 2007. The same applies to donor and surrogate animals.

Food from cloned animals

The sale of meat and other animal food products, such as milk and eggs, derived from cloned animals and their descendants is currently legal. However, cloned animal food products are treated as being “novel foods” and are, therefore, subject to the requirements of Regulation (EC) No. 258/97 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 January 1997 concerning novel foods and novel food ingredients.

There is currently some doubt as to whether animal food products derived from the descendants of cloned animals is covered by the Regulations. The Food Standards Agency (the body responsible for food safety in United Kingdom) is currently of the view that the Regulations apply to food from both cloned animals and to food from the ancestry of cloned animals. The European Commission and other Member States, however, take the view that the Regulations only apply to food from cloned animals. It may well be that the Food Standards Agency will adopt the Commission’s position in the future.

The Regulations prohibit the sale of foods and food ingredients in the EU which:

  • present a danger to consumers;
  • mislead consumers;
  • differ from foods or food ingredients which they are intended to replace to such an extent that their normal consumption would be nutritionally disadvantageous for consumers.

Before a person can sell a novel food or novel food ingredient they are required to submit a request to the Member State in which the product is to be marketed for the first time (in the case of the United Kingdom, the request should be made to the Food Standards Agency) and send a copy of the request to the Commission. The request should be accompanied by studies and any other available material which demonstrate that the food or food ingredient does not present a danger to consumers, mislead consumers or differs from foods or food ingredients which they are intended to replace to such an extent that their normal consumption would be nutritionally disadvantageous for consumers. The request should also be accompanied by proposals for the presentation and labelling of the food or food ingredient and by a summary of the dossier.

An “initial assessment” will then be carried out by the Member State and an initial assessment report will be prepared within 3 months. A copy of the initial assessment report is sent to the Commission and the other Member States for their comments and/ or reasoned objections. Any comments and/ or objections must be submitted to the Commission within 60 days.

Following the initial assessment, in relation to food or food ingredients derived from cloned animals an “additional assessment” or “authorised decision” will be required before a decision is made by the Commission.

Once a decision has been made it will be published in the Official Journal of the European Communities.

Labelling of cloned animal products

Regulation (EC) No. 258/97 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 January 1997 concerning novel foods and novel food ingredients requires food and food ingredients derived from cloned animals to be labelled accordingly.

The Food Standards Agency, however, is of the view that it is not necessary to label meat or milk obtained from the descendants of cloned cattle and pigs for public safety reasons. The Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra)’s view is that mandatory labelling of meat or milk products derived from ancestors of cloned animals would be impractical and unenforceable.