Cloning is a process that produces genetically identical individuals without genetic modification.
Scientists have developed methods to clone animals, including mammals, by using the genetic material contained in mature body cells to produce exact genetic copies of animals. This reproductive technology known as somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) can be used to duplicate rare, valuable or high performing animals.
Use of the technique in mammals raises animal welfare concerns: the surrogate mothers (dams carrying the clone) frequently miscarry. Thus numerous embryos have to be implanted into one cow to produce one clone calf.
Moreover clone abnormalities and unusually large offspring result in difficult births and neo-natal death. Such occurrences are more frequent and severe than for conventionally bred animals.
In terms of food safety however there is no evidence to suggest any difference between products from healthy clones and those from healthy conventionally-bred animals.
Presently, food from clones falls under the scope of the "Novel Food Regulation" as a novel production technique and is subject to authorization. No such application has been received since this Regulation entered into force.
Nevertheless, the animal welfare considerations and general ethical concerns have given rise to calls for Union rules restricting the use of cloning for farming purposes and to ban the marketing of food from clones.
The European Commission has thus presented two proposals for directives. For further details and additional information please consult Animal Cloning proposal.