The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is taking steps to keep clones out of Canada’s food and feed system following reports that cloned cows and embyros may have made their way into the country from Britain.
A CFIA spokesperson said in an e-mail that the agency is looking into the situation.
“CFIA officials are in contact with their counterparts in the United Kingdom and will receive pertinent information once the investigation there is complete,” said Christine Russell.
Under Canadian law, products from animal clones are considered novel food or feed and are not allowed to enter the Canadian food or feed supply.
The controversy has its origins in a news story that was carried inThe New York TimesJuly 29 discussing the issue of cloned livestock in Europe.
Proposed legislation in Europe would ban all meat and dairy products deriving from cloned animals and their offspring.
The article anonymously quoted a U.K. dairy farmer saying he had sold embryos from a cow bred from a clone to cattle breeders in Canada.
The British Food Standards Agency said it is attempting to locate the cow in question. It said it also discovered two bulls born in the U.K. to females impregnated by cloned sperm from a U.S. source.
The issue arose again when U.S. agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack was in Ottawa last week for talks with federal agriculture minister Gerry Ritz.
Vilsack said he didn’t know if cloned animals or their offspring had entered the North American food supply, and added they wouldn’t be worried if it did happen.
“All of the research on this suggests it is safe,” he told reporters, referring to work done by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Nevertheless he said the U.S. will maintain a moratorium against selling meat from cloned animals.
A spokesperson for Canadian agriculture Gerry Ritz was quoted as saying no products derived from cloned animals have been approved for sale in Canada. Canada does not have an official position on the safety of eating cloned animals or byproducts.