25 December 1998

FAWC calls for moratorium on cloning work

By Jonathan Riley

THE government has welcomed independent welfare advisory body the Farm Animal Welfare Councils call for a moratorium on the commercial use of cloned embryos and the establishment of a committee to oversee cloning developments.

Junior farm minister Elliot Morley said that the cloning of farmed animals raised the issue that there could be welfare implications if the technique was used commercially.

At the release of FAWCs Report on the Implications of Cloning for the Welfare of Farmed Livestock, the councils chairman Sir Colin Spedding said the commercial introduction of cloned embryos was not yet close. But the development of cloning technology was accelerating and needed careful monitoring.

"Problems such as oversized offspring, embryonic and foetal losses and birth abnormalities, plus the possibility of problems associated with aged DNA [Dolly, the worlds first cloned mammal was created from the cells of a six year old ewe] must be resolved before the technology is used commercially," said Prof Spedding.

The report added that vets should certify that recipient dams were of an appropriate size in relation to the size of offspring produced, to reduce the number of caesarians being performed on donor animals.

FAWC also called for more research into the birth defects and the number of embryonic and foetal deaths associated with embryonic transfer.

And it voiced concern over the current practice of nuclear transfers in sheep. The technique involves surgical implantation of eggs which are cultured for a week before the animal is slaughtered and the embryos recovered.

Prof Spedding said laboratory-based culture of embryos should be researched instead.

"Legislation to ensure that the procedure is carried out by trained vets should be introduced and a national standing committee which can oversee the outputs of research from an ethical and animal welfare viewpoint and consider further our recommendations on the introduction of cloning," he added.