EU: Cloning for Economic Purposes Should be Banned

EU - MEPs support the objectives of the Commission's Animal Health Strategy for the EU, but call for more ambition and stress that such objectives can only be achieved with a sufficient and clearly defined budget.
calendar icon 23 May 2008
clock icon 4 minute read

MEPs strongly support vaccination, which according to them should be recognised as one of the more important methods to prevent diseases. The European Parliament strongly believes that the cloning of animals for economic purposes should be banned.

The report by Janusz Wojciechowski (UEN, PL) adopted by 482 votes in favour 9 against and 16 abstentions welcomes the strategy, which will reinforce the EU's "protection mechanisms and preparedness in the face of the onset of new epizootic diseases", such as the H5N1 virus of avian flu, foot-and-mouth and the blue tongue virus which have devastated herds in the UK and other parts of the EU and have had an important impact on meat consumption and citizen's trust towards the farming sector.

The strategy aims to strengthen public health protection and food safety, reduce the occurrence of animal diseases, support economic growth by favouring the freedom of circulation of animals and animal products, and promote animal welfare and environment protection.

Although these aims are supported, the report highlights a number of issues where the Commission's strategy "fails to pay sufficient attention".

Financing the strategy

The report calls for the Commission to clarify the role of the EU, Member States and the agricultural sector in financing the animal health measures, for example, ensuring biological security on farms, vaccination programmes, scientific research and higher animal welfare standards.

Mr Wojciechowski draws attention to the fact that the common animal health policy is one of the most integrated EU policies and states that "most of its funding should be covered by the Community budget, which should not preclude the financial responsibility of the Member States and farmers".

Use of vaccinations as part of disease eradication operations

Parliament strongly supports action to increase the use of emergency vaccinations as part of disease eradication operations, to introduce income guarantees for owners of vaccinated animals "since they may face problems selling products from vaccinated animals", and to expand "EU vaccination banks".

The report states that measures should be applied to "reduce the number of healthy animals slaughtered and disposed of, such as tests to prove that animals are free from pathogens", and that it is essential to ensure the availability of "humane means of carrying out any necessary culling of animals that will spare them unnecessary suffering".

To ensure the "indiscriminate circulation of products derived from vaccinated animals", the report calls on the Commission and Member States "for a ban on consumer labelling of products derived from vaccinated animals" and to use "effective public communication strategies regarding the harmlessness of products derived from vaccinated animals".

The report supports the development of vaccination strategies for all relevant species and diseases, and recalls Parliament's amendments to the 2008 EU Budget to increase appropriations for the development of vaccines and testing methods. Prevention of risks

Parliament notes that compensation funds for animal owners based on a reserve system strengthen individual and shared responsibility with detecting and eradicating disease, and believes that the compensation system should be combined with risk-prevention incentives for farmers and the possibility of covering indirect losses from disease-eradication measures through national insurance instruments.

The report points out that "high stocking densities in intensive farming systems may increase the risk of disease spread and hamper disease control" and that "the same could happen in other farming systems if disease control measures are not well implemented". MEPs also stress the importance of distance between farms and transporting animals in controlling epidemic diseases . They call for tightening EU animal transport rules (including, the introduction of GPS tracking for lorries) or: they propose a 9-hour ceiling on animal transport times.

Furthermore, members call for precaution when reintroducing animal proteins into animal feed and efficient control mechanisms in order to avoid avoidance cross-contamination of animal proteins from different species in farm animal feed and cannibalism.

International aspects

MEPs urge the EU to defend its high animal health and welfare standards at an international level within the WTO and to possibly become a member of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) to "increase animal health and welfare standards globally".

MEPs are concerned that European products could be undermined by imports from third countries where the farmers do not face the same obligations with regards to animal health and welfare. For example, the delay in taking measures to ensure that imports of Brazilian beef came only from cattle that were free of foot-and-mouth disease at the end of 2007 undermined "public confidence in the EU animal health regime."

As the EU is the world's largest importer of food and animal products, the report considers that, "in view of the risk of infection-carrying or diseased animals being brought into the EU, veterinary and sanitary checks at EU borders need to particularly thorough and stringent", including ascertaining whether animals have been reared in accordance with EU animal welfare standards instead of only checking documents.

The House stresses the importance of animal health inspections within third countries and asks for an increase in the financial resources of the Commission's Food and Veterinary Office.

What is next

This own initiative report will be followed by Commission legislative proposals to be adopted under co-decision. A Commission Action Plan with detailed timetable is expected for the summer (July or September).

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