Last-chance conciliation talks on a review of the EU's novel foods regulation collapsed early this morning after officials failed to agree on the use of cloned animals' offspring for food production.
After three years and three rounds of negotiations between the Council and the European Parliament, lawmakers and member-state representatives failed to agree on food obtained from naturally conceived offspring of clones.
While the two institutions agreed to ban the use of cloning in animal reproduction for food production, and to ban comestible products from cloned animals altogether, they clashed on allowing onto the EU market food obtained from clones' offspring.
As a compromise, the Parliament proposed mandatory labelling of such products, rather than a ban, to enable consumers to choose whether they want food produced indirectly via cloning technology.
But the Council said it was willing to agree to label only one type of product – fresh beef.
According to the Parliament delegation, the Council also refused to give the EU assembly a right to veto new additions to the novel foods list.
The negotiations ended at seven o'clock this morning after 12-hour marathon talks, when the Council refused a final compromise offer from the Parliament and the Parliament delegation refused to continue discussions.
The failure means that the whole process will have to be re-started from scratch, with the Commission having the option of tabling a new review proposal.
Meanwhile, the bloc's current Novel Foods Regulation, in force since 1997, will continue to apply.
However, the regulation does not cover new types of food or food production techniques developed since 1997, including for example the use of nanotechnology.
So far, only one conciliation process has failed: on the Working Time Directive.
Finnish Green MEP Satu Hassi, a member of the lawmakers' delegation to the conciliation talks, urged the Commission to present a revised proposal on 'novel food' rules.
It must also stick to its pledge to present specific legislation on cloning by March 2013 at the latest, she added. Indeed, during the conciliation talks, the EU executive had proposed to draft and table separate legislation on cloning by 2013, an idea that was apparently welcomed by member states.
Meanwhile, the Parliament will try to find a way to incorporate the labelling of clone food products into proposed EU legislation on food information to consumers, which is currently going though the EU's legislative machinery, Hassi added.
The Parliament's environment committee is set to adopt a draft report on food information at second reading next month, with a plenary vote scheduled for July.