Representatives of the European Parliament and Council of the European Union (EU) have reportedly failed to reach an agreement on legislation that would have prohibited the sale of food produced from cloned animals. The impasse means the EU’s 1997 law remains in effect; it requires government approval to sell milk and meat from cloned animals but does not ban cloning or importing food from cloned animals.

Lawmakers have been in agreement with EU consumers in wanting to ban cloned foods, but the recent clash centered over the labeling of food products from the descendents of cloned animals. Parliament proposed mandatory labeling of such products, but council members wanted labels on fresh beef only.

“We made a huge effort to compromise but we were not willing to betray consumers on their right to know whether food comes from animals bred using clones,” Parliament members Gianni Pittella and Kartika Liotard said in a statement. “Since European public opinion is overwhelmingly against cloning for food, a commitment to label all food products from cloned offspring is a bare minimum. Measures regarding clone offspring are absolutely critical because clones are commercially viable only for breeding, not directly for food production. No farmer would spend £100,000 ($141,000) on a cloned bull, only to turn it into hamburgers.”

Council members, however, expressed equal disdain with Parliament’s demands. “The discussion failed because of European Parliament’s inability to compromise on its request for mandatory labeling for food derived from offspring of cloned animals irrespective of the technical feasibility and the practical implications of such mandatory labeling,” a council statement said. Hungary’s minister of rural development was quoted as saying that Parliament’s stance “in practice would have required drawing a family tree for each slice of cheese or salami.” See Press Releases for the European Parliament, Council of the European Union; Anchorage Daily News, March 29, 2011.