A bioethics group, consulted by the European Commission, has voiced strong doubts about the use of meat and milk from cloned animals, in comments published Thursday.
"Considering the current level of suffering and health problems of surrogate dams (mothers) and animal clones, the EGE has doubts as to whether cloning animals for food supply is ethically justified," the European Group on Ethics in science and new technologies (EGE) said in an opinion delivered to the European Commission late Wednesday.
The group added that it "does not see convincing arguments to justify the production of food from clones and their offspring," in its opinion made public Thursday.
The latest opinion from the ethics group comes after the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) said last week that meat and milk from healthy cattle and pig clones was probably safe for human consumption.
However, Commission spokeswoman Nina Papadoulaki had played down the EFSA conclusion as a "preliminary report" and said "we will ask Europeans what they think about cloning before giving our opinion in May 2008."
The European Commission vowed on Monday to consult with consumers about meat and milk from cloned animals, eager to avert a crisis over so-called "Frankenfoods."
The independent EGE laid out several recommendations should food from cloned animals be allowed onto European markets.
These included guaranteeing their safety with the help of scientific updates and failsafe methods to trace and identify individual animals where necessary.
Following EFSA's report, an influential Italian farmers union on Monday said meat and milk from cloned animals would pose an "unacceptable risk" to consumers.
"We are prepared to mobilise strongly to prevent such a frightening reality from reaching our dinner tables, something that is not needed by either European companies or consumers," Coldiretti president Sergio Marini said on the group's website.