The European Parliament today voted to ban the cloning of all farm animals as well as the sale of cloned livestock, their offspring, and products derived from them. The measure, which passed by a large margin, goes beyond a directive proposed by the European Commission in 2013, which would have implemented a provisional ban on the cloning of just five species: cattle, sheep, pigs, goats, and horses.
The supporters of the ban cited animal welfare concerns, claiming that only a small percentage of cloned offspring survive to term, and many die shortly after birth.
The ban does not cover cloning for research purposes, nor does it prevent efforts to clone endangered species.
Companies in the United States and in China are cloning livestock for breeding and for research purposes, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration found no significant differences between healthy clones and healthy animals from conventional breeding. It considers meat and other products form clones to be as safe as that from other farm animals.
There is widespread public suspicion of cloning technology in Europe, however, and E.U. member countries have said there is currently no agricultural cloning in their territories. The Roslin Institute in Edinburgh, where Dolly the sheep was cloned, no longer works on animal cloning. Farmers can import semen or embryos from cloned animals, however, and milk and meat from the offspring of cloned animals has been sold in the United Kingdom without official authorization.
Representatives from parliament will now negotiate with the European Council, made up of representatives from member states, on a final version of the regulation.