CETA and the European opposition to cloning

Introduction

Even though CETA preemptively enters into force on 21 September 2017, EU member state parliaments still have the right and responsibility to cancel or ratify the EU’s trade deal with Canada. In order to do so, member state parliaments must first confront a series of critical questions regarding CETA, including its implications for the future of European food and agriculture. One such question relates to imports of food derived from cloned animals into European supermarkets.

CETA undermines governments’ ability to create ‘trade restrictive’ regulations (see Briefing Paper 1 for more information). This leaves labelling and traceability requirements on the trading of genetic material of clones, or meat from their offspring, susceptible to challenge. Yet consumers on both sides of the Atlantic want their governments to develop stronger rules on cloning, mandatory labelling and effective traceability systems for food derived from cloned animals and their offspring. Given Canada’s success in dismantling country of origin labelling (COOL) for meat sold in the U.S. (see Briefing Paper 2), creating and strengthening much-needed laws on labelling and traceability of clones and their offspring may become extremely difficult after CETA.

Canada, the U.S. and Mexico are members of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). NAFTA created porous borders between the U.S. and Canada—particularly with regards to the meat and live animal trades. While the U.S. requires no labelling of products derived from clones, both Canada and the EU currently have similar regulations on foods from animal clones. Both designate them as ‘novel foods’. To date, such foods have not been approved for entry into the consumer market in either region, and require official approval before being allowed for sale.

However, both Canada and the EU lack systems for detecting the presence of cloned material in imported animal products. They also lack domestic mechanisms to distinguish between conventional animals and cloned ones, including their genetic material and their offspring. This is despite strong support from European citizens and the European Parliament for mandatory labelling and tracing of clones and their offspring.

Farm animals are typically cloned to create optimal traits for breeding. Genetic material from clones is mostly used for breeding cows or pigs, but the technique is also used on other animals including goats, sheep and horses. Studies on cloning reveal that 73 percent of pregnant cows and 35 percent of pregnant sows suffer miscarriages, while 13 percent of calves and 16 percent of piglets are stillborn—leading to tremendous suffering of the animals.1

Fifteen key countries that use cloning techniques also export animal products or genetic material to the EU (Argentina, Australia, Botswana, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Japan, Namibia, New Zealand, Norway, Paraguay, Uruguay, United States and Switzerland).2 Hundred percent of imported pig sperm/egg and 98 percent of imported bovine sperm/egg to the EU come from the US and Canada.3 According to the European Commission’s impact assessment on cloning, “Milk and meat from the offspring or descendants of cloned bovine animals have entered the food chain in the US and may have done so in Argentina; these are the products most likely to continue to enter human food chains in the near future.”4 Commercial cloning of pigs is also “becoming more common” in the U.S.5

Through CETA, the EU will become further integrated with the Canadian (and consequently North American) meat industry. The lack of mandatory U.S. labelling laws on cloning, combined with the frequent trading of live cattle, pigs, genetic material and other animal products between the US and Canada, make the presence of cloned material and clone offspring in the Canadian meat and dairy supply highly likely.

CETA will lead to closer integration of the Canadian and European markets. This is likely to contribute to an increase of clone-derived products in European food supplies, without consumers knowing. At the same time, CETA will create a roadblock to efforts to trace, label and/ or stop the import of foods or genetic material derived from clones or their offspring into the EU.

Domestic efforts to adopt regulations to track and distinguish cloned animals and their offspring from other animals may also be obstructed, because such regulations could be considered trade restrictive for the North American meat industry. Rather than upholding consumer concerns, the deal is likely to lead to more uncertainty about the presence of clone-derived animal products in European supermarkets. While the European Parliament’s resolution on the U.S./EU trade deal (TTIP) recognised that the EU and U.S. have significantly different rules on cloning for farming purposes, and called on the EU not to negotiate on these issues, it failed to establish such red lines in the negotiations with Canada. The CETA text does not exempt cloning regulations from its deregulatory provisions. In failing to address this issue, the European Commission, Council and Parliament did not recognise the significance of the integrated structure of meat and animal trade between the US and Canada. As a result, they have further opened the European market to foods and other products derived through clone technology. Member state parliaments should not make the same mistake, and should say no to CETA.

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