A Scottish MEP has reacted angrily to assertions from food safety officials who insisted the law governing cloned livestock was clear despite confusion over the extent of European rules.
Conservative Euro MP for Scotland Struan Stevenson said: “Unfortunately, EU rules on the import of meat and dairy products from clones and their offspring are at present confused and inadequate.”
Brussels regards products from cloned livestock as “novel food requiring special permission before entering the food chain”. But the UK Food Standards Agency takes this a step further, applying the same law to the offspring of clones.
The agency’s interpretation of EU law has regarded meat and products from clones and their offspring as novel foods since 2007. This food must be authorised before being placed on the market, said an agency spokeswoman. This interpretation has not yet been the subject of a legal challenge. But an agency spokeswoman insisted the law was clear.
“The European Commission has not yet put this issue on the agenda of a Standing Committee meeting. This does not alter the Food Standard Agency’s interpretation of the law.”
Critics called for clarification after the agency confirmed that beef from two bulls imported as embryos from the clone of a prize-winning American cow had entered the UK food chain.
MEPs recently called on the European Commission to produce an urgent resolution on cloned imports, said Mr Stevenson. In the meantime, they said, all meat and dairy imports from outside the EU should be banned unless accompanied by a certificate.
“It appears the rules have been flouted, but that simply highlights how easily the current law can be circumvented. We must have a more stringent regime that gives consumers confidence in the system.”
People must have confidence in the food chain and know where their meat and milk has come from, said Mr Stevenson.
“If there is any chance that imported meat or dairy products could come from clones or their offspring, it should be clearly labelled ‘This may have come from a cloned animal’.”
That way, while the jury may still be out on the safety and ethics of cloned animals, consumers would be able to make an informed choice, he added.