UK

Cloned meat farmer Steven Innes 'has no regrets'

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Media captionFarmer Steven Innes: "Some people think we're walking around with white coats on holding test tubes and we're actually making the cows"

Farmer Steven Innes, who produced meat from the offspring of cloned cattle, is unmoved by the furore over his actions, and says he would buy more calves born from cloned embryos if he could.

"I would definitely feed it to my children and I don't think there is anybody who looked into it that wouldn't. There is no difference," he told Radio 4's The Report.

The revelation earlier in the month that he produced meat from the animals at his farm in Nairn in the Scottish Highlands upset environmentalists and animal rights campaigners, but he has no qualms.

Mr Innes, who bought two bulls in February 2008 born from a cloned cow in the US, added: "It has never caused any health problems. If you think of the things that are put into food after the farmer is finished with it, like additives and preservatives, to worry about cloning as a health issue is a complete nonsense."

Before they were slaughtered, the bulls were used to sire 96 cows, which are living on his farm but are currently too young for milk production.

Produce ban

At present UK regulations do not allow the sale of milk or meat from cloned products. But if the rules change, Mr Innes wants to sell their milk as a speciality product.

He told The Report: "There might even be a possibility to bottle it separately and market it as specifically cloned milk out of some of the highest genetic cattle in the world, and maybe even get a premium for it. We would put a picture of the cloned cow [on the container] and clearly state what she is."

Mr Innes rejected any suggestion he was reckless in allowing the meat to enter the food chain, and he is annoyed at the stance taken by the government's watchdog the Food Standards Agency (FSA), which stated that the farmer should have applied for a licence under rules regarding "novel foods".

But he said they should have warned him about the rules: "They have sat back and not done anything about it until the Daily Mail and various other papers brought it to their attention."

European offers

However, the FSA responded: "When this issue first arose in 2007, we made clear our interpretation of the law and all food business operators across the board must make sure the food that they sell complies with the law.

"The farmers concerned are running commercial operations and it is in their interest to ensure they are aware of the law. There are over 600,000 food business in the UK and it is totally impractical to suggest that the agency should contact businesses on such an individual basis."

The Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said it was working with the FSA to learn the lessons of the incident "including whether we need to improve advice and support to farmers in a complex area of regulation".

Mr Innes said he has received offers from farmers in Spain, Portugal and the Netherlands who want his buy his calves - countries where products from the offspring of clones can be sold without being labelled as such.

He added that unless the government changes the rules he will sell the calves to Europe. If that happens, there is a possibility that their products could still end up on British supermarket shelves.

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