The existing laws that protect farm animals only set minimum standards for the welfare of animals. These laws do not refer explicitly to cloning, but urge Member States to avoid unnecessary pain, suffering or injury of animals used in agriculture. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) defines cloning primarily as a problem for animal welfare, especially since the technique is not very efficient. Europeans generally do not support cloning techniques for producing farm animals. A European Parliament resolution of 6 July 2011 requested a legislative proposal to prohibit food from cloned animals, although no cloning activities are taking place in the EU at this time.
Consumers of meat in the EU will be guaranteed that cloning techniques cannot be used to produce the food they are eating. In addition, no food from clones can be produced in or imported into the EU. These new rules will provide legal certainty for farmers so they can all work under the same conditions. In the end, these rules aim to protect the health and welfare of farmed animals.
The Commission was asked to prepare a legislative proposal on cloning in food production which was presented by the then Commissioner for Health and Consumers, Tonio Borg. The planned rules aim to ban the use of cloning techniques for food production purposes. This ban was supposed to only concern the following farm animals: cows, pigs, sheep, goats and horses. However, the Environment and Agriculture committees in the European Parliament extended the scope of the ban to cover all species of animals kept and reproduced for farming purposes (instead of only bovine, ovine, caprine and equine species, as proposed by the Commission). They also extended the ban to cover the germinal products of animal clones, descendants of cloned animals and products derived from them. Furthermore, the import and sale of cloned animals shall be banned as well.
The rules are supposed to be temporary and could change as soon as there are new scientific research findings. Cloning of animals for research, conservation of endangered species or use of animals for the production of pharmaceuticals and medical devices is not to be banned.
The proposal was discussed and voted on in the European Parliament's Environment and Agriculture committees. MEPs changed the form of the legal act from a directive, which EU countries would have had to transpose into their national laws, into a regulation, which would directly apply to all Member States' laws.
The committee report - as outlined above - was voted on in the plenary in September 2015. Now, the discussions with the Member States are under way, which might be very difficult. In March 2011, a similar initiative failed because the European Parliament and the Member States could not find an agreement. In case it is going to be more successful this time, the proposal will come into effect 18 months after its adoption.
Updated rules on 'novel foods'
More Possibilities for the Restriction of GMOs
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