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

4th August 2010, Comments 0 comments

Meat from two bulls which were the offspring of a cloned cow have entered the food chain in Britain, officials admitted Wednesday, as they continued to investigate further possible breaches.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) said that meat from two bulls, Parable and Dundee Paratrooper, "will have been eaten".

The animals were among eight cattle conceived using eight embryos harvested from a cloned cow in the United States, it said.

The news has fuelled debate in Britain about the ethics and safety of cloning, although experts insist food products from the offspring of cloned animals pose no health risk.

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.

Its investigations started earlier this week after 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 meat from Dundee Paratrooper, which was slaughtered in July last year, had entered the food chain.

Local council officials identified its owner as farmer Callum Innes of Auldearn in northern Scotland.

Hours later, it also confirmed that meat from Parable, which was slaughtered in May this year, was likely to have been eaten.

The FSA has also said Wednesday that it did not know how many embryos from cloned animals had come into Britain from abroad.

Investigations are continuing into whether milk from two cows also born from the US embryos had entered the food chain. Food products from the other four in the group have not done so.

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

Compassion For World Farming highlighted risks to animal welfare posed by cloning, 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 H. G. 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 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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