Retailers have rejected the idea of selling meat from cloned animals and their offspring, but farmers are keeping an open mind.

Britain's major grocers say the possibility of perfect cuts from prime cloned animals at an attractive price are outweighed by a need to reassure consumers they can shop in confidence - a response that mirrors the response to GM crops.

A spokeswoman for Asda said it did not stock any products produced by cloned animals and didn't foresee a time when this policy would change.

Tesco took a similar line. "We wouldn't stock products from cloned animals or their offspring, in the same way that we don't stock products containing GM ingredients," said a spokeswoman.

The assurances follow the birth in the Midlands of a calf whose mother is the clone of an American prizewinning Holstein dairy cow.

The FSA was due to discuss the legal position on the offspring of cloned animals with its EU counterparts in Brussels this week. EU regulations classify meat and milk from cloned animals as 'novel foods', which must pass safety tests before they can be marketed. However, they do not mention their offspring.

The FSA is pushing for offspring to be considered novel foods as well, but agreement on this is still some way off. The authorisation and labelling of novel foods in the UK is currently decided on a case-by-case basis by the FSA with advice from the Advisory Committee for Novel Foods and Processes.

The FSA said no applications have been received for products from cloned animals.

The NFU's chief livestock advisor, Peter King, refused to rule out the idea of producing food from clones and said more information was needed.

"Public confidence is an absolute priority for farmers," he said. "But we should not be driven by misinformation or misconception, and not penalise new developments or technologies provided these do not impact adversely on consumer interests."

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