The UK’s Food Standards Agency has announced an investigation into reports that milk from the offspring of cloned cows has been sold to an unwitting public.
Last week the New York Times reported that an unnamed British dairy farmer was producing milk from a cow bred from a clone. The farmer also claimed to be selling embryos from the cow to Canadian breeders.
The FSA says its interpretation of the law leads it to believe that any animal product from a clone or the offspring of a clone would need to be authorised as a “novel food” before it was placed on the market. “As the UK authority responsible for accepting novel food applications, the Agency has not received any applications relating to cloning and no authorisations have been made,” it said in a statement released today, while promising to investigate any reports of such unauthorised foods.
Grahame Bulfield, former director of the Roslin Institute – famous as the place where Dolly the sheep was cloned – says, “Given that the farmer wishes to remain anonymous, it is very difficult to evaluate this story. So it should be taken with a pinch of salt. I don’t know of any cloned animals in the UK so I would be very suspicious.” (Comments distributed by the Science Media Centre.)
A number of scientists have insisted milk from any cloned cow – or cow with a cloned parent – should be entirely safe. One question remaining to be answered is what colour code cloned milk would end up with if it were to be approved (maybe black?).
Earlier this month the European Parliament voted to ban the sale of meat and dairy products from clones and their offspring. However, it has yet to pass into law.
“The scientific opinion of Efsa – the European Food Safety Authority – confirms that there are no food safety risks posed by the products of offspring from cloned animals.”
Martin Haworth, director of policy at the National Farmers Union.
There was concern about calves from cloned parents three years ago when it emerged that a calf from a cloned cow was born on a British farm. … Later that year public outrage caused Dundee Paradise and her brother, Dundee Paratrooper, to be withdrawn from auction. It is thought they later went on sale privately.
“There is no genetic modification. It was for this reason that the FDA has approved consumption of milk and beef from the offspring of cloned cattle – they are just normal animals, and I do not understand the EU position on this. Obviously the FSA have their rules and need to look into what has happened, but it is more likely to be the milk of kindness than a horror story.”
Robin Lovell-Badge, Head of Stem Cell Biology and Developmental Genetics at the National Institute for Medical Research (via Science Media Centre).
“Outrageous! I shall be looking for French milk and French cheese from now on! The risk is just not worth it!”
Commenter on the Daily Mail website.
Image: photo by striatic via Flickr under creative commons.