Public strongly against cloned animal meat

First research into the subject shows strong concerns about safety, ethics and animal welfare

Strong public opposition to eating food derived from cloned animals and their offspring has been revealed by the first research into the subject commissioned by a UK government body.

People's concerns about safety, ethics and animal welfare are combined with suspicion of biotech companies, farmers, supermarkets and regulators, finds the study for the Food Standards Agency.

Consumers are struggling "to identify any convincing benefits of the technique" but feel they face "an unstoppable juggernaut". They want safety checks similar to those in clinical drug trials, with such food tested for years before being sold.

However, the prospect of food from the offspring of cloned animals has come closer with US regulators clearing the way for its use, although in the EU the prospect of it is proceeding more slowly.

Creative Research, the firm commissioned by the FSA to do the £55,000 study, said British consumers feared being "railroaded" into accepting cloned meat and would demand such food be clearly labelled. The firm led two three-hour workshops on the issue with 70 people, in Aberdeen, Aberystwyth, Belfast and Croydon. The study found men seemed less concerned about the food than women - who did most of the food shopping, and, said the survey, engaged "at a more emotional level ... and were more worried about animal welfare and food safety". The report says: "Most participants felt animal cloning represented a quantum leap ... to 'interfering with mother nature'." And, irrespective of feelings about it "everyone was worried that this was the start of a slippery slope" that would eventually lead to human cloning.

Meanwhile, a draft scientific opinion for the European Food Safety Authority says that, on current knowledge about animal cloning: "There is no expectation that clones or their progeny would pose any new or additional environmental risks compared with conventionally bred animals." The US Food and Drug Administration says meat and milk from cow, pig and goat clones and their offspring are "as safe as food we eat every day".

EU law would require clone-derived food to be safety evaluated as a "novel food" and approved by all 27 EU member states before being sold.

The European Group on Ethics in Science and Technology doubts whether cloning animals is ethically justified, "given the current level of [animal] suffering and health problems".


James Meikle

The GuardianTramp

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