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Eight 'Clone Farm' Cows Born in Britain - and their Meat could be on Sale in Months

Eight 'clone farm' cows have been born in the UK, the Daily Mail can reveal.

Their mother is a clone – created in a U.S. laboratory with cells taken from the ear of a prize-winning animal.

Meat or milk from the calves, flown into Britain as frozen embryos and implanted into a surrogate, could be on sale here within months. Though food from clones is barred from the food chain, there are no legal safeguards over their offspring.

Details of the births came as a study found an overwhelming majority of consumers object to all 'clone farm' plans.

Research published by the Food Standards Agency showed they consider it a dangerous manipulation of nature and are unhappy that scientists are racing ahead.

The Daily Mail revealed last year that clone farming had become a reality in Britain.

We identified the births of a Holstein calf called Dundee Paradise and her brother Dundee Paratrooper.

Now six more animals with the same clone mother have been born in the Midlands - taking the total to four males and four females.

Embryos from another clone are known to have been imported, although none has yet been born.

The food and farming department DEFRA has been accused of shocking complacency over clone farming.

Its officials admitted yesterday that they had no idea how many clone offspring are on British farms.

Four of the calves were born at Smiddiehill Holsteins in Albrighton, Shropshire.

This herd has since been broken up and sold and it is not known where the animals are now.

The FSA study, conducted by analysts at Creative Research, is the first in-depth investigation of public attitudes to clone farming.

It found that the more consumers learned about cloning, the more they objected. Authorities in the U.S. gave their approval to clone farm food in January.

There are suggestions that meat and milk from clones or their offspring could soon be in shops and restaurants there.

As the law stands, there is nothing to stop this food being imported to the UK without any controls or labels.

In theory, meat from any of the eight British calves could also go into stores at any time.

Creative Research director Dr Steve Griggs, said: 'The majority of people came to the conclusion that they would not want to eat such food.

'There was a strong sense from the public that this represents a quantum leap. They characterised animal cloning as very much interfering with nature and struggled to identify any convincing benefits for consumers.'

Dr Griggs stressed that the survey was carried out with consumers who were given a lot of information about cloning, rather than a simple opinion poll.

Advocates of cloning say the technique will let farmers create herds of supersize cows, able to produce vast amounts of milk – and better profits.

A number of laboratories have been set up in the U.S. to fulfil the demand for cloned cows and their offspring.

There is now evidence that British businessmen farmers, some of the UK's leading breeders of Holstein milking cows, are buying into the idea.

But consumers are worried about the welfare of the animals involved.

Removing eggs needs painful techniques while cloning attempts have produced a high number of stillbirths and malformed young.

Dr Griggs said: 'There were concerns about the ethical side, whether we have the moral right to go down this road. People were concerned this was a step on the road to cloned humans.'

On food, he said opinions were strongly affected by the scandal over human BSE, from eating beef, and the attempted introduction of GM food without proper checks.

'Most people were concerned that cloning could result in food that was unsafe for human consumption,' he said.

'There is a very strong fear that something in this process of could do something to create a new disease or affect the food so it could be harmful.'

The researchers found most people want extensive testing of clone farm meat and milk over a five to ten-year period – similar to the tests on new drugs before they are cleared for use.

The public reaction is at odds with Government thinking. Defra has rejected recommendations from its own farming experts to set up a system to police the introduction of clone farming.

The Daily Mail's revelations last year triggered a review of the law by the FSA and its EU counterpart, the European Food Safety Authority.

The EFSA is due to publish its decision on whether to impose controls on all forms of clone food, including from offspring, in the summer.

Its experts have signalled that there is no risk involved in eating the food, but its ethical advisers have warned against clone farming because of the harm to animal welfare.