EU farm ministers revived the row over 'Frankenfoods' Monday by retaining the possibility of cloned animal products being sold in Europe, despite scientific uncertainty and Green opposition.
Meeting in Luxembourg, the agriculture ministers agreed a set of new rules for the cloned products, included in the category of "novel foods."
The EU nations want "novel foods to be authorized only if they do not present a danger for consumers, do not mislead them and are not nutritionally disadvantageous for them," the farm ministers said in a statement.
Therefore the agreed scheme includes a strict and uniform procedure for cloned animal products throughout the EU, with centralized authorization including risk assessment by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and approval by the European Commission.
Supporters of the scheme argue that it will toughen up the current rules, as the commercialisation of cloned animal products is not clearly policed in Europe at present.
The agreed text extends to the first generation offspring of cloned animals, which are not currently subject to special regulation.
The EU council decision must still be put to the European parliament but swiftly raised the hackles of Green groups and threatens to renew public fears over "Frankenfoods."
The parliament has already declared itself in favor of an all-out ban on this type of food product due to potential risks to animals as well as humans.
Last September the parliament urged the EU's executive branch to ban the cloning of animals for the food trade, citing reduced genetic diversity among other concerns.
Several expert groups, including the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies, have outlined problems such as the animals' well-being and the higher mortality rate of cloned animals.
They also stressed that cloning could considerably reduce the gene pool diversity and increase the risk of whole herds being hit by an illness they are all particularly susceptible to.
EFSA itself has warned of "uncertainties in the risk assessment" of cloned animal products due to the paucity of research.
While cloned animal products are not currently authorized in Europe, the parliament's Green bloc called the ministers' decision "a potential stepping stone towards legislation to authorize such products."
"It is deeply worrying that EU governments are keeping options open regarding the possible sale of meat from cloned animals on the European market," said British Green MEP Caroline Lucas.
"This flies in the face of consumer concerns and a European parliament vote in favor of an outright ban," she added.