European Union governments and lawmakers remained deadlocked on how to regulate the production and sale of food from cloned animals, following all-night talks in Brussels that ended on Thursday morning.
EU sources said the remaining sticking point was a demand by lawmakers in the European Parliament for a full EU ban on the sale of food derived from cloned animals and, crucially, their offspring.
EU governments and the bloc's executive support an EU ban on the use of cloning for food production, and on the import and sale of food from clones.
But banning the sale of food derived from the offspring of cloned animals would be impractical and disrupt global trade, as meat, milk and processed products from such animals cannot be distinguished from those produced traditionally, they argued.
The Parliament's representatives in the negotiations accused EU governments and the European Commission of intransigence, saying they had turned a blind eye to the ethical and animal welfare concerns raised by the use of cloning for food.
"It is ... incredible that the Council is willing to turn a blind eye to public opinion, as well as the ethical and animal welfare problems associated with cloning," EU lawmakers Gianni Pittella and Kartika Liotard said in a joint statement.
Under EU procedures, governments and the Parliament have until the end of March to reach an agreement on the draft legislation, which regulates the approval and sale of "novel foods" not widely consumed in the EU before 1997.
A final round of negotiations is scheduled for March 28.
MARKET FOR CLONES
Animal cloning, which uses DNA transfer to create an exact genetic copy of an animal, currently has a success rate of below 20 percent, with most cloned animals dying during or shortly after birth.
The technique is complex and costly, ensuring that cloned animals are unlikely to be used directly as food, but they can be bred traditionally to produce offspring that share similar traits, such as high milk production or rapid growth.
The United States is the most advanced country in terms of animal cloning for food production, with estimates provided by companies suggesting that "thousands of cattle" and "hundreds of pigs" have been cloned there so far.
The United States currently has a voluntary moratorium on the marketing of food from cloned animals, but not from their offspring.
In August, it emerged that meat from the offspring of a cloned cow was placed on the market by a dairy farm in Scotland, leading some British supermarkets to pledge not to sell any meat from clones or their young.