European consumers say no to cloned meat

The overwhelming majority of consumers would reject meat from cloned animals and their offspring, an EU study has shown.

As the European Commission decides the future of animal cloning and its role in the food chain, a survey of 25,000 EU citizens by Eurobarometer has revealed that the majority of EU citizens think that animal cloning is morally wrong (61%) and over half (58%) believe animal cloning could never be justified for food production purposes.

The safety of cloned meat was a big concern to consumers, with 84% agreeing that Europe did not know enough about the long-term health and safety effects of using cloned animals for food. As a result, most people (63%) said that they would be unlikely to ever buy meat or milk from cloned animals, even if a trusted source said that such products were safe to eat.

The research revealed that the UK has some of the most liberal views on animal cloning, with 53% of UK citizens questioned agreeing that consumers would benefit if animal cloning was allowed and just 46% agreeing that animal cloning is morally wrong, the lowest percentage of all the 27 member states.

Eight out of 10 EU citizens said that special labelling should be required if food products from the offspring of cloned animals became available in the shops.

The findings of the survey will be used to help the European Commission decide whether to approve animal cloning in Europe.

EU health commissioner Androulla Vassiliou said: "The survey provides us with valuable insights into the attitudes of EU citizens toward the use of animal cloning technology for food production.

"The Commission will now proceed with the analysis of these elements before considering whether and what action may be necessary."

The United States government has approved the use of meat and milk from cloned cows and goats for human consumption, but cloning remains a contentious issue for European politicians. In September, 622 MEPs voted in favour of a resolution calling for a ban in the EU on the cloning of animals for food supply.

Neil Parish MEP (Con.), European Parliament agriculture committee chair, said: "Consumers are right to be concerned about the long-term effects animal cloning could have on nature and human health.

"The EU should ban animal cloning for food until the scientists can confirm conclusively that it is safe for human health, and does not provide untold animal suffering."

Animal welfare groups argue that cloning significantly increases animal suffering. Studies suggest that cloning is an inefficient technology, with a tremendous loss of animal life, that cloned animals often suffer from disease and deformity and that cloning is likely to encourage intensive farming practices.

Eurogroup for Animals director Sonja Van Tichelen said: "Our society does not need food from cloned animals, especially not when it leads to more animal suffering. Consumers want natural and healthy food, not Frankenstein food."

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