The U.K. Food Standards Agency (FSA) has announced that meat from a cloned cow’s offspring has evidently entered the food supply, sparking concerns about the country’s livestock registration and tracking requirements. The agency apparently traced four female and four male calves to a cloned Holstein cow from the United States. According to FSA, farmers have not sold any milk from the three surviving females but have slaughtered the bulls and sold three for human consumption. “While there is no evidence that consuming products from healthy clones, or their offspring, poses a food safety risk, meat and products from clones and their offspring are considered novel foods and would therefore need to be authorized before being placed on the market,” stated FSA in an August 11, 2010, news release, adding that food producers who purchased such animals or their offspring “will need to seek authorization under the Novel Food Regulations.” See FSA News Release, August 4, 2010.
In response, the U.K. National Beef Association has asked FSA not to block products derived from clone offspring, including those with a cloned grandparent in another country. As the association argued in an August 16, 2010, statement, a ban on these animals will deny U.K. livestock farmers “the advantages of breeding technology that is already used, without any market access restraint, in competing countries like the United States, and could eventually be taken up in almost all non-EU countries.” See Food Politics, August 17, 2010.
Meanwhile, the Holstein UK breeding association and National Farmers Union Scotland have already criticized the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) over loopholes in its cattle traceability scheme. After The Guardian linked two of the bulls in question to a Scottish farm, the associations noted that current laws do not compel farmers to disclose information about cloned breeding stock when registering calves. In this case, however, the operation reportedly cleared the cattle with both the local agricultural department office and Holstein UK, in addition to registering the calves as clone progeny with the government. Defra Secretary of State Caroline Spelman has apparently pledged to look into the matter and to work with the European Union on procedural changes if necessary. See The Guardian, August 4, 2010.
The dustup has also gained traction in the United States, where AlterNet reporters spoke with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) about the potential for clones to infiltrate the American market. According to an August 20, 2010, article, one USDA spokesperson “said the department was ‘not aware of an instance where a product from a cloned animal has entered the food supply’ thanks to a ‘voluntary moratorium’—but that offspring of clones, at the heart of the Europe scandal, ‘are not clones and therefore not included’ in the voluntary moratorium.” Taking this statement to mean that Americans are also consuming “milk and meat from unlabeled clone offspring,” AlterNet has called on its readers to question “the soundness of the clone process itself” and to demand labeling for these products.