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Europe Walks a Fine Line on Regulation of Cloning

BRUSSELS - European Union regulators are getting ready to propose rules on cloned livestock that would be stronger than those in the United States with regard to actual clones, but would seek to avoid trade tensions by allowing imports of food produced from their offspring as well as imports of semen and embryos from clones for breeding.

The European Commission's report, expected Tuesday, would recommend a ban on the cloning of farm animals in Europe for five years, as well as the imports of live clones, according to a person with direct knowledge who did not want to be identified ahead of the announcement.

The rules, which would replace the present patchwork of legislation and guidelines in the Union, are designed to address growing unease in Europe about cloning and food after a handful of breeders in Switzerland, Britain and possibly other countries imported semen and embryos from clones or their progeny from the United States, seeking to breed more productive livestock.

Animal welfare advocates claim that the technique leads to suffering, including difficult births. They also say animals can face health problems later in their lives.

The rules, if approved by governments and by the European Parliament, would create a mandatory ban on using direct clones in the food supply in Europe. The U.S. Agriculture Department has taken a different approach, asking farmers to voluntarily keep all direct clones out of the food supply for now so it can manage a "smooth and orderly" transition to market. 
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