Wednesday's Telegraph carried two short pieces on the cloned beef / milk debate from Lord Peter Melchett, the Soil Association's Policy Director, and Professor Sir Ian Wilmut, the creator of Dolly the sheep. Whilst both seem to agree that there are significant animal welfare issues inherent to cloning, they are wide apart on what research says about food safety issues. Wilmut writes:
"... In order to make their assessment of the safety of food from cloned animals the U.S. regulatory agency, the Food and Drug Administration, completed a detailed analysis of all of the cloned animals born in the USA before the time of their study in 2007. Detailed independent analyses were made of the composition of milk and meat from cloned animals and their offspring. These measurements in clones were compared with measurement from genetically very similar animals raised on the same farms. They also took note of all of the relevant information available from other countries. After extensive analyses, they concluded that they could find no difference between healthy cloned animals and genetically similar animals produced by normal reproduction. ..."
"... This evidence, combined with our understanding about the basic biology of cloning, would support the conclusion that food from clones or their offspring is safe to eat. ..."
Melchett, however, writes:
"... For human health, no evidence of danger is not the same as safe. There’s been no long term safety testing of meat or milk from cloned cattle – if business interests get their way, there never will be. ..."
This enthusiasm for research is to be welcomed. But does it mean that the Soil Association will now be supporting (funding, even) independent studies into the safety of food from cloned animals? I wonder.