Anchor David Baron speaks with The World’s science reporter, Rhitu Chatterjee, about the revelation that milk and meat from the offspring of cloned cattle may have made their way into the British food chain.
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DAVID BARON: Cloned cows have sparked food fears in Europe. Food safety officials in Britain are investigating how meat and possibly milk from the offspring of cloned cattle entered the food supply there. The World’s science correspondent Rhitu Chatterjee is here with me. So, Rhitu, what happened in this case?
RHITU CHATTERJEE: Hi David. Earlier this week an unnamed British farmer on conditions of anonymity told The New York Times that he’d been selling milk from a cow that was an offspring of a cloned cow. And it created a huge public outcry because people were concerned about safety and they’re also concerned about just the cloning procedure harming animals. And from this case, the UK’s Food Standards Agency stepped in and started an investigation to see if milk from the offspring of a genetically modified, or cloned, animal entered the food market. And earlier today the BBC reported that another farmer, a man named Steve Innes, has said that he sold meat from two bulls that were born to a cow cloned in the US. And the farmer said that he acted in good faith that he was unaware that he had violated any laws.
BARON: Well, did he violate laws? What are the rules in Britain?
CHATTERJEE: That’s a great question. Well, under European law food from cloned animals must pass a safety evaluation test and should be authorized for sale. And last month the European parliament voted to ban the sale of meat or milk from cloned animals and their offspring, but that’s yet to become law. And the Food Standards Agency, again the UK agency, has come out and said that any product from offspring of cloned animals would also be classified as novel food and has to be authorized. But it’s very confusing because the farmers are saying that we did not know that we had to report this. So there’s a lot of confusion about what farmers are supposed to report and what they’re not.
BARON: Right, and from what I can tell, most scientists don’t seem to think there’s any reason to worry about the safety of these products, but they haven’t yet been shown to be safe by the government.
CHATTERJEE: Right. Well, at least the EU is saying that, or the European agencies are saying, we need to do more tests before we can tell whether this is safe or not. But in the US, the FDA has said that it’s safe.
BARON: Now why would a farmer even want to use a cloned animal for food? You would think it’s a very expensive way to produce meat or milk.
CHATTERJEE: It’s not that every farmer is jumping at the idea. There are a few that have been trying to – the idea is well, you get more, you genetically modify these animals so that they can produce more milk and get more meat out of them and they are more disease resistant.
BARON: Then I suppose if you have a good animal and you can make a clone, an identical copy, then your prize Holstein, you’ve got a perfect copy.
CHATTERJEE: Right, but no one knows how many generations through the good effects of cloning last.
BARON: So what happens next?
CHATTERJEE: Well, David, the British Food Standards Agency is going to complete its investigation and we are hoping that, and everyone’s hoping, that it will clarify the laws and regulations so that farmers know when they’re supposed to report what they are selling.
BARON: The World’s science correspondent Rhitu Chatterjee. Thanks.
CHATTERJEE: My pleasure, David.
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