Fifteen years after Dolly, the first mammal to be cloned from an adult cell rather than an embryo, made headlines, the process of livestock cloning is increasingly gaining acceptance as a viable means of satisfying demand for sustainable food production.
In December 2010 and March 2011, representatives from governments around the world gathered in Buenos Aires, Argentina, to discuss regulatory and trade-related aspects of livestock cloning in agriculture and food production. At the conclusion of these meetings, representatives from Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, New Zealand and the United States not only signed a document supporting livestock cloning technology, they encouraged other governments to sign it as well.
“These governments recognize that cloning is one breeding technology that helps farmers and ranchers produce healthier animals and contributes to more consistent food production,” said Dr. David Edwards, BIO’s director of animal biotechnology, in a March 21, 2011, statement commending their efforts. “There is global scientific agreement that foods from livestock clones and their offspring are no different than foods from livestock produced through conventional breeding and are completely safe to eat.”
In fact, both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the European Food Safety Authority have spent years researching the issue.
In January 2008, the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine issued a 968-page report that summarized its study of the safety and regulatory implications of somatic cell nuclear transfer, the process most commonly used to generate animal clones. That report, Animal Cloning: A Risk Assessment, concluded that livestock cloning is safe. Six months later, EFSA — the agency of the European Union that provides independent scientific advice and communication on existing and emerging risks associated with the food chain — issued its own scientific ruling that food from clones is safe, and that animal cloning doesn’t affect the environment.
Five for Five
The government representatives who convened in Buenos Aires focused their discussions on livestock cloning in particular, but animal biotechnology encompasses much more. It also pertains to the assisted reproduction of poultry, fish, insects, companion animals and laboratory animals, and can help spur advances in human health, animal health and welfare, and environmental and conservation benefits.
The signed support document that came out of these intergovernmental meetings stressed the following points:
Regulatory approaches related to agricultural technologies should be science-based, and no more trade-restrictive than necessary to fulfill legitimate objectives, and should be consistent with international obligations.
Expert scientific bodies around the world have reviewed the effects of SCNT cloning on animal health and the safety of food derived from livestock clones. There has been no evidence indicating that food from clones or the progeny of clones is any less safe than food from conventionally bred livestock.
The sexually reproduced progeny of SCNT clones aren’t clones. These progeny are the same as any other sexually reproduced animal of their own species. There’s no scientifically justifiable basis for imposing a regulatory differentiation between the progeny of clones and other animals of the species.
Restrictions specifically aimed at food from the progeny of clones, such as bans or labeling requirements, could negatively impact international trade.
Any audit and enforcement measure addressed to progeny of clones would be impossible to apply legitimately and would result in onerous, disproportionate and unwarranted burdens on livestock producers.
To learn more about animal cloning and the science behind it, visit CloneSafety.org.