Meat from cloned cow's offspring eaten in Britain: officials

4th August 2010, Comments 0 comments

Meat from a bull which was the offspring of a cloned cow has entered the food chain in Britain, officials admitted Wednesday, as fears grew of further possible breaches.

The controversy follows a Food Standards Agency (FSA) announcement earlier this week of a probe following a newspaper report that milk from the offspring of a cloned cow had gone on sale to the public.

But as it carried out this investigation, it discovered that two bulls conceived using embryos harvested from a cloned cow in the United States had been born in Britain.

Meat from one of them, a bull named Dundee Paratrooper which was slaughtered in July last year, "will have been eaten", while meat from the other did not enter the food chain, the FSA said.

The two bulls were used to sire 100 cows, although the milk from those cows did not enter the food chain.

The farmer whose bulls were involved in the second case was identified as Callum Innes of Auldearn in northern Scotland by local council officials.

Under European law, foodstuffs produced from cloned animals must pass a safety evaluation and gain authorisation before they are marketed.

The FSA is responsible for authorising "novel foods" such as meat and other products from clones and their offspring and said it had neither granted any such authorisations nor been asked to do so.

It also admitted Wednesday that it did not know how many embryos from cloned animals had come into Britain from abroad.

Campaign groups for animal welfare and organic farming have voiced concern over the issue.

Compassion For World Farming highlighted risks to animal welfare, while the Soil Association voiced safety fears and said the use of clones could reduce genetic diversity within agriculture.

But the National Farmers' Union Scotland said there were "no risks" to human health posed by food products from the offspring of cloned animals.

Professor Hugh Pennington, a leading microbiologist at Aberdeen University, said that while the word cloning "has an HG Wells ring to it", the process was "perfectly safe".

"They are just the same as their parents from the genetic point of view so there's no problem there," he said.

David Bowles of the RSPCA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) told the BBC the issue was about "transparency" and showing consumers they could "trust what they go into shops to buy -- and at the moment that is in doubt".

© 2010 AFP

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