Cloned livestock gain foothold in Europe
2.Scientists Produce First Cloned Fighting Bull
3.Dolly's long goodbye
EXTRACTS: All clones are defective, in one way or another, with multiple flaws embedded in their genomes. (item 3)
NOTE: Cloned animals often don't come to to term, are born fatally deformed or under-developed, have life shortening and worsening complications, and/or are developmentally disabled - see item 3
1.Cloned Livestock Gain a Foothold in Europe
New York Times, July 29 2010
BRIGHTON, England - Many Europeans recoil at the very idea of cloning animals. But a handful of breeders in Switzerland, Britain and possibly other countries have imported semen and embryos from cloned animals or their progeny from the United States, seeking to create more consistently plump and productive livestock.
And although no vendor has publicly acknowledged it, meat or dairy products originating from such techniques are believed to be already on supermarket shelves.
The amounts are no doubt small, and the sale appears to be legal. But the development is noteworthy on a continent that has long objected to genetically modified crops and where many people look at animal cloning as potentially dangerous and cruel ”” even immoral.
"Although no safety concerns have been identified so far with meat produced from cloned animals, this technique raises serious issues about animal welfare, reduction of biodiversity, as well as ethical concerns," Corinne Lepage, a French member of the European Parliament, said this month before a vote there in favor of a blanket ban.
In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration declared in 2008 that food from cloned cattle, pigs, goats and their progeny was safe to eat. (Cloned sheep were left off the list, but their progeny were declared O.K.) The Agriculture Department, however, has asked farmers to voluntarily keep all direct clones out of the food supply for an unspecified period so it can manage a "smooth and orderly" transition to market.
In Europe, government officials say that anyone who wanted to market meat or dairy products from clones would need to seek permission under the European Union’s “novel foods” regulations, which were generally meant to cover newly developed ingredients. So far, no one has.
Meat and dairy products from the offspring of clones, however, currently receive no prior assessment or approval.
The Swiss Federal Office of Public Health reported in a relatively obscure part of its Web site that “dairy products and meat derived from such animals have probably been used in food, then sold in Switzerland.”
“Other countries in Europe face the same situation,” it said.
The technique has even infiltrated one of the Continent’s most ancient traditions: in May, one of Spain’s grandest breeders produced the first cloned fighting bull.
“It’s absolutely historic, and it’s remarkable that we achieved this with the symbol of Spain,” said Julio César Diez, a veterinarian who worked on the project.
Got, as the bull was named, will never face a matador ”” or end up on a dinner plate. He is expected to spend his life a stud, siring other bulls for the ring for the Guardiola family, which has bred the Pedraja line of bulls in the region of Seville for several generations.
At today’s prices, the family could expect to make around 1.5 million euros ($2 million) from selling the bulls that Got fathers ”” naturally ”” during his lifetime.
Much bigger stakes are in sight for the meat and dairy industry, which argues that cloning can give more farmers access to star animals with leaner meat, bigger milking potential and enhanced disease resistance.
Far from being outlandish, they say, cloning is among a number of breeding techniques that are becoming mainstays of the industry.
Europeans already are deeply involved in related businesses that have grown rapidly in recent years as breeders seek the most productive animals. Some of the biggest cattle genetics companies and cooperatives in the world ”” including Alta Genetics, CRV, Genus and Viking Genetics ”” are European-owned.
Fierce public opposition has limited the use of cloning in Europe, however, leaving producers fearful of falling behind competitors in the United States and elsewhere.
“We mustn’t build up a fortress against cloning and the offspring of clones,” said Arnaud Petit, a director at Copa-Cogeca, the largest European association of farmers and cooperatives. “We have to produce more food with fewer resources and less impact on the environment, and cloning could be one of the ways forward.”
This month, the European Parliament voted to ban the sale of meat and dairy from cloned animals and from the offspring of clones.
But European governments ”” weary from battles over genetically modified crops ”” are wary of fomenting a new trade war with major agricultural trading partners like Argentina, Brazil and the United States.
They will begin negotiating in September with Parliament members to finish the rules.
In the last three years in Britain, farmers used imported embryos to produce at least three animals. But that prompted a storm of criticism in the national media, while opponents of cloning warned that foods were about to appear in supermarkets without proper safety checks.
An employee at Humphreston Farm, near Birmingham ”” the farm at the center of that storm ”” said the owners, Michael and Oliver Eaton, had since sold their herd and were growing crops instead.
The employee, who would not give his name, said the Eaton family did not want to comment on what had happened to their cows bred from clones.
Another British dairy farmer said he was using milk from a cow bred from a clone as part of his daily production. He also said he was selling embryos from the same cow to breeders in Canada.
The farmer insisted on anonymity, saying that the British public regarded cloning as so distasteful that buyers would stop taking his milk.
He also said that he did not want to be required to get rid of a valuable cow. His activities appear to be at odds with the position of the British Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. A spokeswoman for the department said last week that, as far as officials were aware, no meat or dairy from the offspring of clones bred from imports of semen or embryo had entered the food chain in Britain.
In Switzerland, famous for its cheese and chocolates, the government says “several hundred” cattle that are second- or third-generation descendants of clones are in the country. It notes, however, that that is a “very low” percentage of the 1.5 million head of cattle there.
The race to produce the first cloned fighting bulls in Spain initially involved two rival teams. But ViaGen, a large biotechnology company based in Texas, has slowed down its efforts in Spain, citing the controversy over the procedure in Europe.
“We just didn’t want to rock any boats,” said ViaGen’s president, Mark Walton.
Yet Mr. César Diez, who performed the insemination that led to Got, said he expected clones and their offspring to become more common in a few years for livestock farmers in Europe because of the growing demand for high-quality meat at affordable prices.
“When you can select animals that produce so much more meat per kilo of grain feed, the logic of cloning is inevitable,” he said.
2.Scientists Produce First Cloned Fighting Bull
New York Times, July 29 2010
MELGAR DE YUSO, SPAIN ”” The team that produced the first cloned fighting bull in Spain calls its dark brown calf the only living representative of a ferocious lineage that goes back 300 years.
Got, who was born from a placid black and white Frisian surrogate on May 18, already gambols across the farmyard and uses his budding horns to tussle with children. He lives in a hay manger in this tiny northern village near the Camino de Santiago, a celebrated route for Christian pilgrims.
The project began three years ago, when a team cultured 41 identical embryos from a small sample of skin from the neck of a highly valuable stud bull, Vasito, before he died last year of old age.
Of 21 cows inseminated, three became pregnant.
Two days after Got’s birth, another calf was stillborn after its blood became incompatible with that of its mother.
Researchers at the University of Murcia, in southern Spain, are investigating whether the onset of that condition was due to the cloning procedure. Those results are expected in October.
Researchers at the University of Newcastle are verifying that Got is truly a clone. Those results are expected in early August.
The birth of a third calf, ToruÃ±o, is expected in the third week of August.
Vicente Torrent Guinot, the director of the FundaciÃ³n Valenciana de InvestigaciÃ³n Veterinaria, a nonprofit group that led the project, broadly followed an approach to cloning pioneered by the creation of Dolly, a cloned sheep, in 1996, the first mammal cloned from an adult cell. But he said he had honed elements of the process to make it more efficient.
Dolly was put down at the age of 6 after developing arthritis and a lung disease, fueling suspicions that cloned animals are prone to illnesses.
Dolly’s creators have maintained that the onset of those conditions was not connected to her cloning.
Animal protection groups still question the ethics of using risky procedures to produce animals that could be used for blood sports, much less food.
“The underlying motive is clearly profit, with no consideration for the pain and the deaths of many animals as a result of this Frankenstein technique,” said Sonja Van Tichelen, the director of Eurogroup for Animals, a federation of animal welfare organizations.
Mr. Torrent said his goal was to preserve the noblest qualities in fighting bulls.
The group spent â‚¬30,000, or about $40,000, on the project. Karl Storz, a German producer of medical equipment, donated an endoscope for the insemination process worth â‚¬15,000.
The Guardiola family owns Got and the 20 remaining embryos, which are being kept frozen. A family representative could not be reached for comment, but Mr. Torrent said he did not expect them to pass on any of their future earnings from selling bulls sired by Got to his organization.
Mr. Torrent also said he would not ask for any royalties from researchers who reproduced the procedure. Instead, Mr. Torrent said he was content to be contributing to preventing the permanent loss of species of “high genetic value.”
3.Dolly's long goodbye
The Ecologist, 15 February 2007
*Four years since the death of Dolly the cloned sheep, her legacy very much lives on...
Ten years ago this month the world first heard of Dolly the Sheep - the first mammal cloned from an adult cell. And St. Valentine's Day marked the fourth anniversary of Dolly's "euthanasia" at the age of six after a veterinary examination showed she had a progressive lung disease, a condition more common in older sheep.
But this double anniversary doesn't round off the story. Dolly's birth at the Roslin Institute in Scotland marked just the beginning of a long production line of animal clones that has included mice, rats, rabbits, horses, mules, cats and a dog. More ominous perhaps are the cloned cattle, pigs, sheep and goats. For, while Dolly's stuffed remains are to be found exhibited in Edinburgh's Royal Museum, the push is on to serve up the remains of today's cloned livestock on our dinner plates.
Just two months ago a US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)'s draft risk assessment concluded that meat and milk from adult clones and their offspring are as safe to consume as those from standard animals. There has, of course, been no public debate about whether US citizens, let alone the recipients of US exports, wish to consume such fare, and surveys of US public opinion show a decided lack of appetite for cloned food. But we may not have the choice. The FDA has already concluded labelling should not be required while semen brokers have been busy selling thousands of units of semen from cloned bulls. Their offspring are almost certainly going to end up in the food chain. The daughter of a US cloned cow has already been born on a British farm.
The corporate Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) sees no need to worry. A clone, claims BIO, is just "a genetic twin of that animal... no genes have been changed or moved or deleted." But clones are far from perfect copies. All clones are defective, in one way or another, with multiple flaws embedded in their genomes. Rudolf Jaenisch, a geneticist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, estimates that something like 4-5% of the genes in a cloned animal's genome are expressed incorrectly.
These often subtle genetic defects can have tangible consequences. Cloning produces an extraordinarily high number of deaths and deformed animals. Some clones have been born with incomplete body walls or with abnormalities in their hearts, kidneys or brain function, or have suffered problems like "adult clone sudden death syndrome" and premature ageing. This brings us back to Dolly who developed a potentially debilitating form of arthritis at an unusually early age.
By that point, the company behind Dolly, PPL Therapeutics, had received big public funding guarantees, as Dolly became the biotech icon at the centre of what was supposed to provide Scotland with an emerging "biotech tartan triangle" and a major economic driver. However, in the same year that Dolly died, PPL Therapeutics decided to sell its assets and shut its doors, following multimillion pound losses. It left behind a large herd of unwanted GM sheep in New Zealand that, like Dolly, had to be "euthanised".
But still Dolly lives on, not only in the industry of the abnormal that she gave birth to but as a "cuddly" incarnation of the dream of a world remade without natural boundaries - limited only by our imagination and desires. While the dream may be inherently defective, it has powerful economic drivers. Cloning expert, Peter Shanks, points out that the FDA's favourable draft assessment of cloned food leaned heavily on the work of animal-cloning companies like Cyagra and ViaGen.
Over a quarter of the 700-page draft, says Shanks, is a data dump from the two companies - a fact that the New York Times failed to mention, even when quoting the president of ViaGen saying, "I think that this draft is going to provide the industry the comfort it needs."
For Dolly and her "descendants", it looks set to be a long goodbye.