Animal cloning is about producing an animal that is essentially a copy of the original. This most commonly involves a technique known as Somatic Cell Nucleus Transfer (SCNT). A genetic copy of an animal is produced by replacing the nucleus of an unfertilised ovum (egg cell) with the nucleus of a body (somatic) cell from the animal to form an embryo. Embryonic Cell Nuclear Transfer (ECNT) uses cells from early embryos as the source of the donor genetic material which is then transferred to an enucleated oocyte (egg cell from where the nucleus has been removed). This technology was developed in the mid-1980 and creates ECNT clones. The embryo is then transferred to a surrogate dam where it then develops until birth.
Plants have been produced by cloning for many years by taking a small part of a plant and growing another one from it and this has been done on a larger commercial scale for some time with some fruits and vegetables, for example bananas. The technology has more recently been applied to animals (since 1996 with the birth of the sheep named Dolly).
EFSA’s Scientific Committee adopted a scientific opinion on the implications of animal cloning on food safety, animal health and welfare and the environment in July 2008. In 2009 and 2010, EFSA released statements that confirmed the conclusions and recommendations of the 2008 opinion. These pieces of work followed requests from the European Commission for advice on this issue.
On December 2011, EFSA received a further request from the Commission for an update on the state of play on cloning of farmed animals for food production purposes. A statement is expected to be published by June 2012.
To fulfil the European Commission’s mandate, EFSA is publishing this Call for Data seeking scientific contributions from third parties. Specifically, EFSA is seeking information which has become available since the publication of its most recent statement in June 2010. Such data could refer to new scientific publications, as well as to scientific information which is not yet published.
EFSA encourages submission of peer reviewed data which it regards as the most relevant and reliable documents. Non peer reviewed data will be considered if they are based on scientific evidence and if they meet adequate quality standards, e.g. publications “in press”, technical reports or other scientific documents or data.
EFSA would appreciate receiving new data (since June 2010) on clones of food producing animal species, covering in the following area:
- Health and welfare of animal clones during their production life and taking into consideration both their expected production life and natural life span;
- Information on cloned animals obtained with either the Somatic Cell Nucleus Transfer (SCNT) or the Embryonic Cell Nuclear Transfer (ECNT) techniques.
EFSA is also seeking information in relation to other aspects that are relevant to cloning of food producing species. Such information could relate to:
- Health and welfare of the surrogate mother;
- The extent epigenetic dysregulation occurring in clones is transmitted to progeny (offspring);
- Characterisation of the genetic make-up of animal clones, considering both intranuclear and extranuclear (mitochondrial) genetic material;
- Comparative physiology of clones and conventional animals, including reproductive capacity;
- Safety of consumption of animal clones and their products (meat, milk products, eggs), including compositional and nutritional characteristics;
- Information on the causes of pathologies and mortality observed in clones during the gestational and juvenile periods and those observed at a lower frequency in adulthood;
- Information on the issues above related to the offspring of animal clones.
Process of the call for data
The above information needs to be submitted electronically to EFSA by 17th March 2012 at the latest. The interested parties are invited to contact EFSA for further clarification if required.
Confidentiality and unpublished data
EFSA will ensure that the data are handled confidentially.
All electronic correspondence, including enquiries, should be sent to:
Scientific Committee Unit, European Food Safety Authority
Via Carlo Magno 1/A, 43121 Parma, Italy
scientific.committee [at] efsa.europa.eu
Tel. +39. 0521 036 619