Cloning and novel foods
Food from cloned animals, for example meat, eggs or milk, falls under the scope of the EU Novel Food Regulation. Under the regulation, cloning is considered a novel production technique and is subject to authorisation.
What is cloning?
Cloning is a process that produces genetically identical individuals without genetic modification.
Cloning is common in horticulture, for example - growing plants from a cutting or a graft produces genetic copies of the original plants. Some microorganisms - such as amoebas, and insects - such as greenfly, also clone themselves naturally.
Scientists have developed a way to clone cattle and other farm animals using a technique known as 'somatic cell nuclear transfer' (SCNT). SCNT doesn't occur naturally.
The use of this technique in mammals raises animal welfare concerns. However, in terms of food safety, there is no evidence to suggest any difference between products from healthy clones and those from healthy conventionally-bred animals.
How is cloning regulated?
To date, cloning is not used for commercial production of food in the EU. No company has ever applied to sell food from cloned animals on the EU market.
If this happens in the future, any products obtained from cloned animals would be considered novel foods. As such, they would need to be safety assessed and authorised by the EU before they could be legally placed on the EU market.
Food Standards Agency (FSA) research
The FSA has researched public attitudes towards:
- the possibility that the offspring of cloned animals could enter the food chain
The survey found that areas of consumer concern included:
- food safety
- animal welfare issues
- a lack of trust in the organisations with an interest in cloning
The report concluded that the public would only accept the idea of buying and eating food from clones and their offspring if these concerns had been addressed.
Read the FSA's report on consumer attitudes towards emerging technologies.