We should farm cloned animals says Dolly expert

Daily Mail News

11th July 2007

The creator of Dolly the sheep has called for farmers to take up cloning as a way of producing cheap food.

Professor Keith Campbell believes the country's farms should be populated by superstrong, super-sized offspring of clones.

The U.S. expects to be eating clone-farmed burgers, pork and bacon within two years, and supporters of the method say Europe must follow suit.

The Daily Mail revealed earlier this year how the daughter of a U.S. clone cow had been born on a British farm for the first time, making Frankenstein Farming a reality.

The intention is that the cow - Dundee Paradise - will be used to help breed Britain's future milking cow herds.

Professor Campbell said yesterday that this should be the first step to a far wider use of cloned animals to produce food from cattle, pigs, chicken and sheep.

Campaigners insist that meat and milk from cloned offspring is identical to the food in supermarkets and should not be labelled.

However, any attempt to deny families the right to decide whether they want to eat food produced in this way would be highly controversial.

One of the biggest concerns is the high number of clone-animal pregnancies that lead to abnormalities, miscarriages and stillbirths.

Even in the most successful cloning systems, twice as many piglets are born dead - around

20per cent - as with existing breeding. The clones could be created from cells taken from the ears of prized animals or even bodies going through a slaughterhouse.

Clone-offspring cows would be bigger and able to produce more milk than those from current breeding techniques.

Pigs might also be much bigger, leaner or faster growing, so making them easier and cheaper to produce.

Professor Campbell, director of animal bioscience at Nottingham University, said cloning is a useful extension of existing selective breeding, which includes artificial insemination and embryo transfer.

"It is just another technique that we can add to accelerate genetic improvements to farm animal species," he added. "Cloning allows us to multiply elite animals.

"We have achieved the ability to clone a whole variety of animals and animal species. In farm animals, we have got cattle, sheep, goats, pigs and horses.

"In my opinion the ability to integrate cloning into the food production line should be allowed to farmers nowadays."

He said there is 'no conceivable risk' in eating food produced from the off-spring of clones, suggesting the only barrier to the technology is public perception.

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration is expected to give approval for the technology, without a requirement for labelling, later this year.

Dr Simon Best, chairman of the Bioindustry Association, believes labelling is unnecessary saying: "I don't think there is a scientific reason for doing it."

He said: "There is a whole load of things that the public could want to know, but you end up with information overload.

The policy chief of the organic farming group, the Soil Association, dismissed the claims as 'propaganda'.

Peter Melchett said: "The fact that supporters of cloning are not prepared to support labelling and want to keep the whole thing secret says it all. It stinks."

The European Food Safety Authority launched an inquiry into the issue of clone farming following the Daily Mail revelations earlier this year.

But will take 18-24 months to report and there is no effectively system to police the introduction of clone farming.