EU States, Legislators Clash Over Ban on Cloned-Animal Offspring

European Union governments rejected a European Parliament demand to ban foods produced from the offspring of cloned livestock, saying such a step may provoke retaliation by trade partners.

The proposal by parliament would have blocked 2.5 billion euros ($3.5 billion) of beef and pork imports and 10.9 billion euros of exports of those meats, Hungary, which holds the rotating EU presidency, said in an e-mailed statement today. It cited estimates by the European Commission, the bloc’s executive arm.

The body is demanding a ban on “any commercial activity” relating to cloned animals and their offspring, Gianni Pittella, the legislators’ chief negotiator, said in an e-mailed statement today.

“The position of the European Parliament would require drawing a family tree for each slice of cheese or salami,” Hungary said. A ban would be “unfeasible and incapable of putting an end to cloning of animals, while causing irreparable damage to European agriculture,” it said.

The latest round of talks on EU rules for novel foods started yesterday in Brussels and lasted until 4 a.m. local time today, when parliamentary negotiators walked out, according to the Hungarian statement.

‘De Facto’ Ban

No system is in place in the EU or third countries to track natural offspring of clones, meaning parliament’s proposal would result in a “de facto” ban on imports from outside the bloc, Hungary said. The commission and the EU Council of Ministers therefore reject such a step, it said.

“Such a ban would be impossible to defend under WTO rules and would lead to direct retaliatory measures by third countries,” it said.

Barring the sale of clones’ progeny could not be justified for reasons of animal welfare because the offspring are bred using traditional methods, Hungary said. Such a measure would be misleading to consumers because non-traceable offspring of cloned animals and foodstuffs derived from them are already in the EU market, it said.

“I find it incomprehensible that the council is so stubborn on this,” Kartika Liotard, parliament’s representative on the issue, said in a statement. “We know that 77 percent of European citizens do not want cloned meat on their plate.”

A final meeting is scheduled for March 28, according to the statements.

“If there’s no agreement and there’s no text of compromise, there will be no legislation,” Victoria Martin De La Torre, a spokeswoman for the parliament’s Progressive Alliance of Socialists & Democrats, said via phone.

The parliament in September 2008 urged a ban on any future sale in Europe of food from cloned animals. It also called for a non-binding resolution for a prohibition on EU imports and farming of cloned animals.

Imports, trade and use of products from clones are now covered by general EU regulations, according to the commission. Denmark is the only EU member to have imposed a national ban on the use of animal cloning for commercial purposes.

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