March 29, 2011

EU, Parliament Fail To Agree On Cloned Meat Laws

EU states and the parliament failed to agree on a law to ban cloned foods from supermarket shelves in Europe.

Government officials and Euro MPs clashed over regulating foods produced from the offspring of clones, despite the fact that they both agree on banning meat directly derived from cloned animals.

Hungary accused MPs of "political grandstanding" after a 12-hour round of all-night talks broke down without an agreement.

Parliament members wanted strict labels to be placed on meat derived from the offspring of clones, but the two sides were unable to agree on labeling all foods.

EU states said that the labeling proposal was unrealistic and would lead to a "full-blown trade war" with nations like Argentina, Brazil or the U.S., which all produce clone-derived meat and dairy products.

Hungarian rule development minister Sandor Fazekas told AFP that the parliament proposal was a "misleading, unfeasible 'solution' that in practice would have required drawing a family tree for each slice of cheese or salami."

He said it could take "several years" for the EU's executive Commission to come up with a new proposal.

The failed talks leave 14-year-old rules in place that do not prevent the sale of food from clones.

"It is deeply frustrating that (the European) Council (of governments) would not listen to public opinion and support urgently needed measures to protect consumer and animal welfare interests," Euro MPs said in a statement.

"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," said lawmakers Gianni Pittella and Kartika Liotard.

"Since European public opinion is overwhelmingly against cloning for food, a commitment to label all food products from cloned offspring is a bare minimum."

Euro MPs wanted a total ban on food from the offspring of clones, but they later proposed a labeling system to show consumers the animal's history.

French Euro MP Corine Lepage told AFP that some states were willing to allow a breakdown in talks "because it is in their interest to be able to import cloned semen without any controls."

The European consumers group BEUC said the failure was "shameful."

"The choice made by Europeans is clear: they do not want cloning to be used for food production, and they were clearly ignored," BEUC director general Monique Goyens told AFP.

European health commissioner John Dalli said the negotiations breakdown was a "pity" and that he would "reflect on the disappointing outcome in view of assessing the next steps."

Dalli told AFP that scientific assessments on cattle found  "absolutely no risk to health as there is no differentiation at all between cloned animals and normally-bred animals."

"Yes, I would eat cloned meat," he said when asked if he would eat cloned meat.