By Rick Weiss
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 18, 2008
Opponents of cloning animals for food got a boost yesterday as a European ethics body came out against the practice, expressing concerns about the clones' welfare.
The report, from the European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies, which advises the European Commission, is likely to weigh heavily in the growing European debate on the issue. It counters a scientific report released there last week that, like one by the Food and Drug Administration, found no human health concerns connected to the consumption of meat and milk from clones.
Unlike in the United States, the European Commission is required by law to consider ethical criteria when approving new foods. The new report notes that cloned farm animals have much higher than normal prenatal death rates, as well as a higher prevalence of physiological problems after birth.
Cloned animals' surrogate mothers also tend to have problems during birth and in some cases must be euthanized.
"At present, the EGE does not see convincing arguments to justify the production of food from clones and their offspring," the report concludes.
"I'm just thrilled," said Joyce D'Silva, ambassador for Compassion in World Farming, an animal welfare group in Godalming, England. "There may be no problems from eating this stuff, but there are problems producing it. Ethical problems that are very important."
Barbara Glenn, director of animal biotechnology with the Biotechnology Industry Organization, whose members include the major U.S. farm animal cloning companies, said the report got it backward.
"The ethical imperative to use a proven livestock breeding method such as cloning is clear," Glenn said. "As long as there is hunger, animal cloning is one of the tools to allow farmers and ranchers to continue to produce the healthier livestock that produce healthy foods."