AUSTRALIANS could find themselves consuming meat and milk deriving from cloned animals after United States and European food authorities a week ago found the products would be safe to eat.
A report released by the US Food and Drug Administration last week concluded meat and milk from clones of cattle, pigs and goats, and the offspring of clones from any species traditionally consumed as food, would be as safe as conventionally bred animals.
The report followed a draft opinion released by the European Food Safety Authority earlier in the month which said food from healthy cattle and pig clones and their offspring shared the same composition and nutritional value of similar products obtained from conventionally bred animals.
Therefore, it was unlikely any difference existed between food products from clones compared to conventionally bred animals if unhealthy livestock was removed from the food chain, the draft said.
But the Federal Government is yet to make a conclusion about the safety of consuming cloned animals products.
A Department of Health and Ageing spokeswoman said the Government would consider the report with advice from other international and Australian experts before determining its position.
“The cloning of livestock animals is still in the experimental stages, predominantly in dairy and beef cattle and also in small numbers of sheep,” she said.
“It is understood that any cloned animals and their progeny are restricted to the research environment and are not released in such a way as to enter the food chain.”
Australian regulations did not prevent the production and sale of food derived from cloned livestock and their progeny.
After reviewing the US report, the Government would determine whether there was a need to regulate such food and whether there was a need for its labelling.
If consumer identification is necessary it would apply to both imported and domestic produce.
Labelling will not, however, be enforced in the US, but the report said voluntary labelling would be considered on a case-by-case basis.
WAFarmers president Trevor De Landgrafft said cloning livestock could offer considerable benefits to the meat industry.
“Australian agriculture continues to require research and development in order to benefit the world,” Mr De Landgrafft said.
“We are farming under difficult conditions and could benefit from new technologies.
“Cloning could present the industry with the opportunity to establish better genetics.
“It may even be possible to breed around problems such as susceptibility to disease.
“However, this is a new frontier so I think the opportunities are yet to be seen.”
Mr De Landgrafft said cloning would also have to pass regulatory processes to ensure it was safe for human consumption.
Labelling might also be necessary if the public demanded it, he said.