The proposals, tabled on Tuesday (19 October), would also allow imports of genetic material from clones – semen and embryos – to impregnate animals in Europe.
The plans are likely to encounter opposition from the European Parliament, which recently rejected the production of meat and milk from cloned animals.
The Commission proposal also contains a temporary five-year ban on cloning for food production, justified on animal welfare grounds.
According to available studies, cloned animals tend to die younger and suffer from more defects than naturally-bred animals.
Those that do survive tend to be much larger at birth, a tendency that scientists describe as Large Offspring Syndrome (LOS). Clones with LOS have abnormally large organs, which can lead to contracted tendons, respiratory failure, heart disease and kidney problems.
While imports of living clones or food derived directly from them would be subject to the temporary five-year ban, the Commission said that banning imports of food from the offspring of clones or of genetic material is unnecessary and would disrupt global trade.
All temporary measures will be reviewed after five years.
No labels for meat and milk
The EU executive suggests establishing "a traceability system" for the imported semen and embryos of clones in order to keep a database of animals that have emerged from such reproductive methods.
But it does not suggest any specific traceability or labelling requirements for the imported food derived from the offspring of clones.
The Commission insists that a cloned organism is an exact genetic copy of another and claims that cloning "is also essentially what Mother Nature does naturally with twins".
According to Rui Cavaleiro, a Commission official, the commercial interest in cloning animals for food lies in the easy and quick reproduction of animals that have been identified as very productive or resistant to difficult environmental conditions and diseases.
Cloning could also be used to reproduce champion race horses, for example, Cavaleiro said. But he added that "EU industry is not very interested in the technology today".
Novel foods regulation
The Commission hopes its proposal will break the current deadlock caused by the inclusion of cloning in the EU's draft regulation on "novel foods".
The EU executive would like to regulate the sale of food derived from cloned animals under the draft regulation, but the Parliament has asked the Commission to table a separate legislative proposal to expressly ban food from both cloned animals and their descendants.
The European Parliament is also asking for a moratorium on all sales of food derived from cloning, a position it has maintained since it first passed a resolution on the matter in 2008.
An informal "trialogue" meeting between the Commission, Parliament and EU member states in the Council of Ministers took place yesterday (18 October) to address the issue.