Saturday, December 04, 2010

Some sanity about "Frankenfood" in Britain

Ministers want to allow the unrestricted sale of meat and milk from so-called Frankenfarm animals. They are ready to reject the idea of a ban as ‘disproportionate in terms of food safety and animal welfare’.

The move was immediately condemned by campaigners who warned that cloning poses a serious threat to animal welfare.
Ministers are backing unrestricted sale of meat and milk from Identical cloned cows like these on Scotland's Isle of Skye

Ministers are backing unrestricted sale of meat and milk from cloned cows like these on Scotland's Isle of Skye

It will also trigger a fierce consumer backlash, with evidence that the vast majority of people oppose clone farming on welfare and ethical grounds. Many are also fearful about eating clone food amid concerns there has been too little research to guarantee its safety. The RSPCA and Compassion in World Farming point to high levels of miscarriage, organ failure and gigantism among new-born clones.

The policy, drawn up on the orders of the controversial Conservative Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman, would also rule out labelling. The details emerged in a document published by the Food Standards Agency. It revealed: ‘The Government considers that a ban or a temporary suspension on cloning, the use of cloned animals and the marketing of food from cloned animals would be disproportionate in terms of food safety and animal welfare.’

This is the first time the new Coalition government’s policy, supporting clone farming, has been made public.

Its position would effectively allow the most radical shift in British food and farming in a generation. In theory, meat and milk from clones and their offspring could go on sale legally within a matter of months.

Clone animals would be used for food and to breed herds of unnatural, supersize animals capable of producing vast quantities of meat and milk.

The policy has been adopted by ministers without any public consultation. The only surveys of UK consumers carried out by the FSA and the European Food Safety Authority have demonstrated massive opposition.

Despite this, Mrs Spelman plans to lobby the EU and other governments to effectively abandon any regulation.

The European Commission recently proposed a temporary five-year ban on the sale of meat and milk from clones. But to the disappointment of campaigners, it backed allowing food from the offspring of clones to go into supermarkets.

The documents published by the FSA make clear the Government wants no restrictions. They state: ‘The Government recognises that cloning is a relatively new technique and that the welfare of clones and of their surrogate dams must be protected.’

But it argues that existing laws are sufficient to deal with the welfare of animals and there is ‘insufficient evidence’ to justify a ban.

Recently, a Government advisory committee said that, in its view, there was no difference in meat and milk from clone animals. The Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes advised it was ‘unlikely to present any food safety risk’.

However, the experts admitted there was a lack of safety research. The committee also noted consumers would want to see any food from clone animals labelled. This would not happen if the UK gets its way.

A study by the FSA in 2008 found consumers do not want clone food on their plates. The majority considered it a dangerous manipulation of nature and potentially harmful.

The FSA study was conducted by analysts at Creative Research. Its director, Dr Steve Griggs, said ‘the more consumers learned about cloning, the greater and more widespread were the objections’. Mrs Spelman appears to have overridden these concerns.

However, she will not have the final say as other European governments are highly sceptical about the technology and will argue for tough controls.

Chief policy adviser to Compassion in World Farming, Peter Stevenson, said he was ‘bitterly disappointed’ by Mrs Spelman’s position.

‘This Coalition pledged to give a high priority to animal welfare, yet supporting cloning does completely the opposite. The Government also presents itself as a champion of honest labelling, yet it is proposing a clone food free for all without any requirement for labels.’


Biggest ever IVF study reveals fertility treatment does NOT increase risk of cancer

This will disappoint the haters who think everything popular is bad

Fertility treatment such as in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) does not increase a woman's risk of cancer despite the hormones used, researchers have found.

Some previous studies had suggested that fertility drugs might be linked with breast, uterine and ovarian cancers.

However, a large study from the University of Lund in Sweden found far fewer women developed one ore more cancers following IVF compared to those who had not had such treatment.

In research reported in 'Human Reproduction,' scientists analysed data from 24,000 women who gave birth after IVF between 1982 and 2006.

They compared rates of cancer in these women to 1.4 million women in the general Swedish population who also gave birth over that period.

Fewer than two per cent of women in the IVF group developed one or more cancers during an average follow-up period of 8 years, compared to close to five per cent of the other group.

After accounting for maternal age, the number of previous pregnancies and smoking status, the overall risk of cancer was about 25 per cent lower for women who had IVF.

'A couple who needs IVF does not have to be afraid that the hormone treatment used - at least those used in Sweden - will carry a risk for the woman to develop cancer,' study leader Dr Bengt Kallen said.

While the risk of ovarian cancer was more than twice as high in the women who had IVF as those who didn't, Dr Kallen suggested that this may be due to abnormalities in ovarian function that could both increase the risk for cancer and the risk for infertility, thus the need for IVF. 'The risk for two common cancers, breast and cervical, was significantly lower than expected,' he said.

He added that this might be due to women who get IVF being healthier than average or, more likely, that IVF-treated women may undergo more cervical and mammography exams.


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