The Health Commissioner, John Dalli, came hotfoot yesterday evening from a meeting of the College of Commissioners to tell us (the political team leaders on the Public Health Committee) that a 5-year moratorium will be introduced on the sale of meat from cloned animals.
No evidence of any food safety problems have been identified, he said, and there appears to be no difference between the meat of cloned animals and of others. However, there are some animal welfare concerns: cloned animals have higher mortality rates than others, and surrogate animals can experience problems giving birth to cloned offspring.
Cloning will be permitted for the purposes of research, for production of pharmaceutical products, and to help maintain the survival of endangered species. He said that the science was developing and the issue would have to be considered again in 5 years’ time. In the meantime new requirements would be introduced to enable the source of meat from possible cloned sources to be traced.
So the ball has been kicked into the wings, which is the best place for it. The genie can’t be put back in the bottle, and meat derived from cloned animals is likely to become commonplace on world markets, but while the science develops we can buy a little time so controls should be put in place for the long term.