Animal cloning is a type of reproductive technology. It creates an animal that is an exact genetic copy of another animal. The commercial use of cloned animals in agriculture has so far mainly been confined to the meat and dairy industries.
The most common cloning method involves removing the genetic material from an unfertilised egg and replacing it with the complete genetic material from the animal to be cloned (the donor animal). The egg is then implanted into a surrogate mother who gives birth to an animal that is a clone of the donor animal. The cloned animal is then bred with other animals to pass on its desirable characteristics.
Cloning is different to genetic modification. Genetic modification involves adding, taking away, or modifying genes. Cloning does not introduce any changes into the genetic code of an animal.
Is food from cloned animals regulated in Australia and New Zealand?
Food from cloned animals and their progeny does not require pre-market approval in Australia and New Zealand before entering the food supply and no special labelling requirements apply. However, like all foods, foods from cloned animals must comply with existing food laws, including relevant standards in the Food Standards Code.
US Food and Drug Administration, European Food Safety Authority and Japan Food Safety Commission risk assessments have concluded that food products from cloned animals and their offspring are as safe as food products from conventionally bred animals. FSANZ has reviewed these assessments and agrees with the findings.
Is food from cloned animals in the food supply?
There are currently about 30-40 cloned animals (all cattle) in Australia. FSANZ understands these animals are being used for breeding purposes only, and that food products from these animals are not currently entering the food supply. Food products from their offspring are almost certainly in the food supply.
Food from cloned animals in other countries
Almost 40 countries have conducted research on animal cloning. However, animal cloning mostly occurs in Argentina, Brazil and the USA in the agricultural sector.
European Food Safety Authority (2012) - Update on the state of play of Animal Health and Welfare and Environmental Impact of Animals derived from SCNT Cloning and their Offspring, and Food Safety of Products Obtained from those Animals
Japan Food Safety Commission (2009) - Risk assessment report on foods derived from cloned cattle and pigs produced by somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) and their offspring (Novel foods).
US FDA (2008) - Animal cloning; a risk assessment