On this week’s Pat Kenny Show, we started by discussing the recent vote by the European parliament to ban cloned animals.
The EU ban on animal cloning
The EU Parliament voted in early September 2015 to ban animal cloning as well as imports of all clone-derived products. This decision sets the EU on a different course to many other regions in the world : farmers in the North and South America, China and many other regions commonly use cloning as part of their farm systems.
The most commonly used technique for cloning is still somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT), the technique that was used to create Dolly the sheep back in 1996. A genetic copy of an animal is produced by replacing the nucleus of an unfertilised ovum with the nucleus of an adult body cell. The resulting clone embryo is then transferred to the uterus a surrogate mother where it develops until birth. Cloning replicates the exact genetic make-up of the adult animal from which the cell was taken, producing a direct replica as a newborn animal. There is nothing “Frankenstein” like about the clone – it is simply a copy.
Why has the EU just voted to ban cloning?
The answer is that European law makers are concerned about the severe impact of cloning on animal welfare. Poor efficiency rates of conception (6% to 15% for cattle and 6% for pigs) mean that many animals need to be “used” to create one clone. Additionally, there is a high incidence of difficult births and neonatal deaths. European consumers feel strongly about animal welfare with 67% believing that there are ethical reasons to ban animal cloning.
The European Food Safety Authority is clear that no differences exist in terms of food safety for meat and milk of clones: this is clearly an animal welfare issue, nothing to do with fear of eating something “strange”.
Cloning for medicinal purposes
Cloned and genetically modified animals do have another use which will not be affected by EU decision, and that is for medical purposes. Basically, cattle sheep and goats – i.e. the milkers – can have their genetic coding altered so that they produce specific useful proteins in their milk e.g.
- Bssl – bile salt stimulated lipase – to help cystic fibrosis sufferers with gut digestion
- Alpha-one anti-trypsin, again for cystic fibrosis sufferers
- Fibrinogen is another protein that can be created in this way, used in blood clotting abnormalities
Basically you can make most proteins you want to appear in the milk – as long as those human proteins do not harm the animal being milked. Some proteins have caused harm in the past – one was involved with bone growth – calcitonin – so led to fractures in the lambs, which led to the project being abandoned.
Listen to the podcast from the Pat Kenny Show, where as well as cloning we talk about chewing pups, wasp-chasing cats, terrapins & more: