Humans will be eating meat produced from cloned animals within three years, scientists predicted yesterday.
American farmers are expected to be given the go-ahead to sell beef, pig and dairy products produced from the offspring of genetic copies by the end of the decade.
A European Union committee will make its decision based on the same scientific research used by the US Food and Drug Administration, which has already concluded that cloned livestock is "virtually indistinguishable" from other animals.
Scientists yesterday argued there was no evidence of any health problems linked to the consumption of food created using the technique, and said British farmers should be allowed to use it to produce cheaper, more environmentally-friendly meat.
However, campaigners said cloning of agricultural animals should be banned for both food safety and animal cruelty reasons.
Dr Simon Best, chairman of the BioIndustry Association, said: "I think it's very likely that millions of Brits will be eating hamburgers or bacon from cloned animals or their progeny in two or three years, but in America."
A cloned animal is a genetic copy of another individual from whom a cell has been taken and placed in an emptied egg.
Animal welfare campaigners say the technique is cruel to animals, both those that undergo the surgical procedures and the cloned offspring who suffer high rates of defects and illness such as obesity and cardiovascular problems.
Nikki Osborne, of the RSPCA, said: "We are totally opposed to the cloning of animals for food production.
"The process is inefficient, and has a huge potential to cause the animals involved unnecessary pain, suffering and distress for absolutely no valid reason."