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Last updated at 17:08 BST, Thursday, 05 August 2010

Cloned meat inquiry

Summary

4 August 2010

The British Food Standards Agency is to open an inquiry after it emerged that meat from cloned cows had been used in food production without proper authorisation.

Reporter
Pallab Ghosh

a cow

Meat from cloned cows has been eaten

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The few studies that have been carried out on meat and milk from cloned animals have shown that it's no different nutritionally to that of normal animals. But the feeling among food safety agencies in Europe is that there hasn't been enough research, and until more is known cloned food should be treated as a novel food. That requires any supplier to get specific authorisation to sell produce from cloned animals.

The FSA began an investigation after claims that a British farmer had admitted selling milk from a cow that was the offspring of a clone. That inquiry is still going on – although the UK dairy industry body, DairyCo, has said it is "confident" no such milk entered the human food chain.

However, on Tuesday, the agency issued a statement saying it had identified two bulls born in the UK from embryos harvested from a cloned cow in the US. Both bulls had been slaughtered - meat from one of them had been eaten.

American biotechnology companies are cloning animals that give high yields of meat and milk - to use as breeding stock. As the industry grows in the US it'll be hard for food safety authorities to police the export of embryos from cloned animals to farmers in Europe.

Pallab Ghosh, BBC News, London

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Vocabulary

cloned

animals or plants produced artificially from a single cell, so that they are exact copies of another plant or animal

novel

unique or unusual

offspring

children

food chain

feeding relationship where one animal eats another animal, or the produce of another animal

embryos

very young animals that have not yet fully developed before birth

harvested

gathered

slaughtered

killed (usually for food)

biotechnology

a branch of biology that uses living creatures to provide chemicals, food and products for humans

high yields

large profits or returns

breeding stock

in farming, animals that are kept specifically to reproduce