CLONING IN PUBLIC
Unlike the genetic modification of animals, the EU does not directly regulate animal cloning and only a few Member States have national legislation that specifically covers it. As part of the Union's initiatives on consumer health and food safety, CLONING IN PUBLIC joined six European partners working to stimulate informed public debate on farm animal cloning. The Danish-led project also aimed to make recommendations on regulation and on guidelines for research and applications of farm animal cloning.
TAKING STOCK OF ANIMAL CLONING
Despite enormous scientific significance, the first report of a mammal born after nuclear transfer cloning, by Steen Willadsen in 1986, caused little public concern, possibly because donor cells came from preimplantation- stage embryos. In 1997, the researcher Ian Wilmut and colleagues presented Dolly, the sheep, to the world. She was produced through the same method, but the cell nuclei used was from a somatic cell from an adult animal. It had theoretically become possible to clone unlimited numbers of virtually identical animals from an adult animal or post-implantation foetus - which did generate serious concern.
Since 1989, the European Commission has tracked public views on biotechnology through the so-called Eurobarometer surveys. The 1999 survey found three distinctions within public attitudes to biotechnology that are of direct relevance to the question of farm animal cloning. Firstly, it was clear that the interviewees regarded biotechnology much more favourably when used for human medicine than when used for agricultural purposes. Secondly, it was very clear that using the technology on animals was much less acceptable than on plants. Finally, many people were concerned that research into animal cloning would eventually lead to the cloning of humans.
New biotechnologies carry both potential risks (e.g. to human health, compromised animal welfare or environmental damage) and potential benefits (e.g. future treatment of human disease). However, recent studies indicate that scientists and the public may view such concepts as risk and benefit differently. Consequently, science and industry must be prepared to discuss farm animal cloning with the public, both in ethical as well as scientific terms, just as the public need access to relevant information about the underlying technology and possible applications. CLONING IN PUBLIC sought to facilitate discussion by gathering and synthesising information on farm animal cloning to present a broad view of the technology.
Literature reviews and interviews were conducted, and two workshops were organised on the scientific, legal and ethical aspects. Regulation and public attitudes, as well as motivations for the research, were studied and potential applications looked into. At a final participatory conference in Brussels, specialists on animal cloning engaged with representatives of industry and NGOs, as well as students and citizens from across Europe.
The project disseminated its results through a website, reports, and press releases. It also sought to publish articles in major newspapers and magazines in several languages throughout Europe. It will delivered recommendations on European regulations and guidelines covering research on farm-animal cloning and its subsequent applications.
List of Partners
- Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University (Denmark)
- Institute of Animal Physiology and Genetics (Denmark*)
- Danish Institute of Agricultural Sciences (Denmark*)
- Institute for Molecular and Cell Biology (Portugal)
- Cardiff Law School, University of Wales (UK)
- University of Copenhagen (Denmark*) * The three Danish partners are cooperating on the project through the Danish Centre for Bioethics and Risk Assessment.
- CLONING IN PUBLIC
- Full title:
- Farm animal cloning and the public - a project to facilitate a European public debate and to make recommendations for the cloning of farm animals
- Contract n°:
- Project co-ordinator:
- Peter Sandøe,
Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University
- EC Scientific Officer:
- Jean-Charles Cavitte,
- EU contribution:
- € 514,560
- Specific Support Action