Richard Cooke Clerk to the Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee Office 7 Millbank London SW1

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1 Richard Cooke Clerk to the Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee Office 7 Millbank London SW1 14 October 2010 Dear Richard IMPORTATION AND USE IN AGRICULTURE OF CLONED LIVESTOCK AND THEIR DESCENDANTS Thank you for your letter of 17 September. We have answered the questions as put, as attached, but please be aware that the Government is reviewing its position on cloning and Ministers have asked officials to review the interpretation of the EU Novel Foods Regulation in respect of cloned animals and their descendants. Yours sincerely Deirdre DEIRDRE KENNEDY PARLIAMENTARY CLERK

2 EFRA COMMITTEE QUESTIONS TO DEFRA ON IMPORTATION AND USE IN AGRICULTURE OF CLONED LIVESTOCK AND THEIR DESCENDANTS 1. How many licences, under the Importation of Embryos, Ova and Semen Order 1980, have been granted to import cloned embryos into the UK, and does this Order apply also to embryos of the natural offspring of a clone? The Importation of Embryos, Ova and Semen Order 1980 (as amended) would be used to license the import of cloned embryos of all species. To date there is no record of any licence being issued, or applied for, under the 1980 Order for the importation of cloned embryos from outside the EU. In 1997 and 1998, nine licences were issued for the importation of cloned bovine embryos from France for research purposes. The import of other embryos is governed by EU rules which permit imports of embryos that have been conceived as a result of artificial insemination (including in vivo fertilization) or in vitro fertilization.... This means that embryos from the natural offspring of a clone could be traded provided that they were produced, stored and handled in accordance with the requirements set out in EU legislation. Bovine embryos produced in accordance with EU legislation must be imported with the appropriate EU animal health certification. An import licence is not required. Each consignment must enter the EU at a Border Inspection Post where checks are carried out to ensure that import conditions have been met. 2. What records do you keep of the offspring of cloned livestock in England? How many animals that are descended from clones are currently in England? Cattle passports do not contain information as to whether the animal is a clone or the descendant of a clone. This is because controls on cattle identification and traceability, which are defined at EU level, are designed to protect human and animal health. There is no requirement for the separate identification of cloned animals or animals descended from a cloned animal. We therefore do not have a record of the number of animals descended from clones in England. 3. What steps have you taken to ensure that the offspring of cloned livestock do not enter the food chain without first receiving permission from the FSA? The FSA lead on the implementation of the regulations covering the placing on the market of food from cloned animals and their descendants. Defra has discussed the issue of food from the offspring of cloned livestock with the dairy industry. We have pointed out that the existing regulations allow an application to be made to the FSA for the marketing of such product.

3 4. Would farmers that have inadvertently bought the offspring of clones, which now cannot enter the food chain, be eligible for compensation? The current rules as interpreted by FSA do not absolutely prevent meat or milk from offspring of clones from entering the food chain in the UK. They require an assessment to be made and approval to be given before produce can be sold for human consumption. It is also possible for these animals, their progeny and products derived from them to be exported to other countries. It is for buyers of livestock to satisfy themselves about the genetic origin of animals that they purchase. If they considered that they had been misled by their supplier about whether an animal was the offspring of a clone they would need to consider what, if any, contractual or legal remedy they had against their supplier.. 5. What assessment have you made of the impact and feasibility of a ban on the sale of food products from the first generation offspring of clones? Defra has not carried out a detailed assessment. If there were to be a ban, it would affect individual farmers in relation to the numbers of such offspring on their farms as a percentage of their livestock. Such a ban would be very difficult to apply. It would require an effective means of tracing food to first generation offspring of clones. Within the UK, we have no means of identifying first generation offspring (unless we happen to know they exist as in the case of 8 offspring of clones imported as embryos and recently highlighted in the press). Introducing a traceability system would be hugely expensive. As for imported food, cloning is known to be taking place in third countries but first generation offspring are similarly not identified and food from these animals is indistinguishable from food from other animals. An import ban specifically targeting imports from first generation offspring could not be effectively enforced. The European Commission is producing a report on cloning which may deal with issues such as traceability and the feasibility of a ban on food from first generation offspring. This report is expected in November. 6. What assessment have you made of the competitive disadvantage British farmers may experience from not being able to breed from cloned animals? The contribution made by individual animals to improving the value of livestock can be considerable. This is particularly true in breeding programmes where a high value trait found in an individual, such as on an Artificial Insemination (AI) station, can be passed on to a large number of offspring to enhance the competitiveness of commercial producers. As with natural cloning or twinning, artificially assisted cloning increases access to desirable traits across a generation and although the technology is in its relative infancy compared with other well used methods such as AI or embryo transfer, it is a useful additional tool in the breeder s toolbox to disseminate genetic improvement in desirable traits. For long-term competitiveness and reduction of climate change impacts, it is important 2

4 that UK producers have access to technology that is available to their competitors in the EU and in third countries. The National Standing Committee on Farm Animal Genetic Resources issued a statement on cloning on 13 September which describes the advantages and disadvantages of the technology What assessment have you made of the effects of inbreeding between related cloned cattle or their descendants on the bovine gene pool in the UK? Are you considering measures to maintain the genetic diversity of British cattle? Inbreeding can be an issue irrespective of cloning. Research carried out by Kearney et al 2 in 2004 indicated that the rate of inbreeding in the UK Holstein population had increased substantially since 1990 compared to earlier periods, most likely due to the large influence of a few related sires in the mid- to late 1980s. Thus increase in inbreeding had no connection with cloning. Whilst it is recognised that cloning could exacerbate any inbreeding problems, as could many other selection strategies if they do not take account of the need to avoid breeding from related animals, it can also be used to expand the gene pool by allowing wider access to genetics from animals, including those that have died or been castrated. Thus cloning can be particularly helpful, for example, in expanding the gene pool for rare breeds. The UK s major breeding companies, breed societies and individual farmers are increasingly aware of the need to avoid inbreeding and it is for them to take action to protect pedigree breeding stock. Defra is not considering any specific measures in relation to individual breeds but seeks to promote the conservation and sustainable use of farm animal genetic resources, in particular through support for native breeds at risk under agri-environment schemes. 8. What is the Department s view on the animal welfare implications of livestock cloning? The welfare of farmed animals is regulated in the UK through a combination of European and national legislation, and UK welfare standards are considered to be among the highest. Cloned livestock would be subject to exactly the same welfare requirements as other farm animals, as would animals involved in the production of cloned offspring. These requirements include provisions on farm staffing, inspection, record keeping, freedom of movement, accommodation, feeding etc and in addition Schedule 1of the Welfare of Farmed Animals (England) Regulations 2007 states that Natural or artificial breeding or breeding procedures which cause, or are likely to cause, suffering or injury to any of the animals concerned, must not be practised. In terms of the application of cloning there is potential to improve the welfare of animals, for example by breeding for disease 1 NSC FAnGR statement available at: 2 J F Kearney, E Wall, B Villanueve and M P Coffey Inbreeding Trends and Application of optimized Selection in the UK Holstein Population Journal of Dairy Science, Vol 87, Issue 10, pages (October 2004) 3

5 resistance or other measures of robustness, and this was recognised by the European Food Safety Authority 3. EFSA s consideration of cloning did flag up some welfare concerns for clones themselves, but acknowledged that improvements in the efficiency of the process had been reported from France and Japan, likely as a result of increased knowledge. EFSA recognised that the majority of losses in cattle clones were observed in the first 60 days following transfer of the embryo to the recipient and generally without adverse welfare implications. 3 The EFSA statement on cloning adopted on 14 September 2010 is available at 4

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