Clone farming has arrived

Научная статья

Биология и генетика

But Dundee Paradise is evidence that clone farming - designed to deliver supersize cows producing an astonishing 70 pints of milk a day - has arrived in Britain. Her birth last month exposed glaring gaps in the Government’s system for policing livestock farming. Both the food and farming ministry Defra and the Food Standards...



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Clone farming has arrived


April 2007

The black and white calf may look unremarkable.

But Dundee Paradise is evidence that clone farming - designed to deliver supersize cows producing an astonishing 70 pints of milk a day - has arrived in Britain.

Her birth last month exposed glaring gaps in the Government's system for policing livestock farming.

It raises the prospect of milk and meat from the offspring of clones reaching the shops without proper safety checks.

Though not a clone herself, Dundee Paradise is the daughter of a clone. Her mother was created in the U.S. using cells from the ear of a champion dairy Holstein.

Dundee Paradise herself began life in an IVF lab. She was flown to the UK in a batch of five frozen embryos, implanted in a surrogate mother and successfully delivered at a Midlands farm on December 2.

Both the food and farming ministry Defra and the Food Standards Agency admitted last night that they had known nothing about the calf's birth, or even the arrival of the batch of embryos last year.

Three years ago Defra rejected advice from its own experts to set up a safety assessment and policing regime. It means there are no laws preventing farmers from rearing clones or their offspring.

Supporters of cloning believe Dundee Paradise and animals like her could provide the nucleus of Britain's future dairy herd. The calf was valued at Ј14,000 even before she was born.

But the use of clones, sometimes dubbed Frankenstein Farming, is extremely controversial.

Critics say there are serious welfare issues. Clones and their offspring are known to be at risk of dying young - one of the batch of embryos miscarried at seven months - and having malformed organs.

There are also ethical questions about meddling with the building blocks of life simply to produce more cheap food. Perhaps the most alarming element is that the government has allowed clone farming to arrive in this country without proper public consultation or debate.

Compassion in World Farming, which has opposed the cloning and genetic modification of farm animals, said the public would be "horrified".

Policy adviser Peter Stevenson said: "People will be astonished and appalled that clone farming is not a nightmare for the future, it already exists on a farm in this country.

"The history of cloning is littered with examples of animals that are unhealthy or die quite early. The whole process involves invasive procedures that cause suffering."

He pointed to Dolly the sheep, the first mammal clone. Born in a British farm laboratory in 1997, she died young in 2003 from a lung disease. She was already suffering painful premature arthritis.

Mr Stevenson said: "We would urge the

farming industry to call an immediate halt to this and we would urge consumers to refuse to buy meat and milk from these sources."

He said it is not too late for the government to block the controversial technology.

Lord Melchett, policy chief of the Soil Association, said: "I cannot think of anything more likely to destroy the public's confidence in British food.

"High-yielding Holstein cows are already one of the biggest welfare concerns in farming because of the huge strain of producing vast quantities of milk. Government figures show that a third of dairy cows are killed after just one lactation because their bodies cannot cope with any more.

"Cloning would push this whole catastrophe one step further."

Lord Melchett criticised the lack of a monitoring regime, saying: "All the evidence suggests the government will refuse to take action unless it is provoked by some kind of crisis for human health."

The farming industry believes the cloning of prize livestock will allow the creation of herds of supersize animals and boundless cheap food.

The giant Holstein cows can produce 30-40 per cent more milk than conventionally-bred animals. As a result, top animals can change hands for more than Ј50,000.

Dundee Paradise was born at a large farm in the Midlands.

Her mother is called Vandyk K Integ Paradise 2 and lives on a farm in Wisconsin.

She is one of three clones createdby the U.S. biotech firm Cyagra Clone from cells taken from the ear of the multi award-winning cow Vandyk K Integ Paradise.

Embryos from such clone cows are highly sought-after in the U.S. and it appears the trade has now extended to the UK.

The company which owns Dundee Paradise is run by a father and son team who also have a major concrete products business.

They bought five embryos from the U.S. to be implanted in their Holsteins. The others are expected to be born in the next few weeks.

The company has refused to comment.

An option to buy Dundee Paradise was sold to a member of the Bahrain royal family - Sheika Noora Bint Isa Alkhalifa - at a cattle auction held by Harrison & Hetherington in Carlisle in December.

The sheika, who owns prize pedigree Holstein herds in Devon, Wales and Bahrain, paid Ј14,000 to have first choice of the five clone-origin calves. This was before any of them were born.

The American owner of the clone mother cow confirmed the sale of embryos to the UK.

Mark Rueth, who farms in Oxford, Wisconsin, said: "We sold some embryos to (the Midlands farmers) and they got a very good price for a calf. I can see the UK being a big market.

"The benefit of cloning is that when a donor animal is gone it means you are able to maintain and build a superior genetic base for the herd."

Mr Rueth said the price of cloning works out at around Ј9,800 per calf. He expects this figure to come down.

Supporters of cloning argue that it could actually increaase the lifespan of the animals involved. Bigger cows, will be better able to cope with the huge demands on their bodies.

The clones themselves are essentially used as breeding stock - embryo factories capable of churning out large numbers of high-value eggs and calves. For farmers who own a prize cow, the potential income is extremely tempting.

American cloning companies are busy making multiple copies of just about every top pedigree cow and bull in the land. Scientists are also working on pigs and chicken to produce model breeding stock.

The speed of the spread of clone farming is outpacing the regulatory system in Britain and the rest of the EU. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently announced that it plans to allow the consumption of meat and milk from cloned animals without any need for labelling. The FDA has angered health and consumer groups by arguing that these animals are effectively the same as those born naturally. 

In 2004, Defra rejected advice from its own experts to set up a committee with legal powers to monitor and police attempts to introduce clone farming or genetically-modified animals.

The Department said such controls would stifle British science and innovation and impose unnecessary red tape and costs on the farming industry. Now, just as the experts warned, clone farming has arrived in a way which cannot be controlled or monitored. Defra insisted last night it was following EU rules which "do not require us to differentiate cloned from normal embryos". It said there was no plan for tougher UK-only rules.

The Food Standards Agency has been told by ministers to police the introduction of meat and milk from cloned animals and their offspring. But it also knew nothing about Dundee Paradise.

Daily Mail


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