Friday, January 19, 2007

Cow cloning 'bad news for farming'

The "horrifying" birth of a calf from a cloned cow in a British farm could destroy confidence in food and farming in this country, it has been claimed.

Lord Melchett, policy director of the Soil Association, said the Government's failure to impose regulatory controls on such a practice was "inexcusable".

He was speaking after it was reported that the calf, named Dundee Paradise, had been born at a Midlands farm last month. Her mother was created in the US using cells from the ear of a champion dairy Holstein, according to the Daily Mail.

Farmers are said to be using the cloning technology to develop supersize cows able to produce 70 pints of milk a day.

Campaigners claim the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has acted irresponsibly by ignoring recommendations by an independent body three years ago to regulate the importation of "Frankenstein" livestock.

Defra said it was investigating whether proper procedure was followed when the cow's embryo was flown into the UK.

Lord Melchett told the Press Association: "I think the news that this has arrived without any checks and without any controls from the Government, despite the fact that they were advised by the Government advisory committee to introduce controls, will undermine trust in British farming and British food.

"I have seen absolutely no evidence that consumers want this and lots of evidence which suggests that consumers are very uneasy about the idea of eating meat from cloned animals or drinking milk from clone animals. The lack of Government action is inexcusable and damaging to British farming."

Peter Stevenson, chief policy adviser of Compassion in World Farming, said: "It is horrifying to learn that animal cloning has arrived on our farms. It is doubly worrying that there is no safeguard in place to avoid serious animal welfare and ethical problems from the introduction of this 'Frankenstein' technology. The UK Government must act responsibly by stopping further introductions and setting up an independent ethical watchdog to oversee this area."

A Defra spokeswoman said: "Any cloned embryo that enters the country will be identified in the consignment's accompanying pedigree documentation. The documents will be checked and noted by the official veterinarian at the board of entry point and will subsequently be recorded with the relevant breed society." The department said it would look into whether proper procedures were followed.

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