No sooner had the scientists from Pharming, a Dutch biotechnology company, shown off their two cloned calves last Friday than they were told by their government that the method used to create them would be outlawed.

The identical female calves, produced by the embryo nuclear transfer method first used in Britain to produce the cloned sheep Morag and Megan a year before Dolly, were front-page news in Holland. Pharming said the embryos were frozen before and after the cloning. But the Dutch Agriculture Ministry has decided to ban the technique. "The method has not been proved necessary. There is no scientific purpose," said ministry spokesman Paul van der Brug. To which Frank Pieper, Pharming's vice-president of research and technology, said: "The knowledge we've gained doesn't go away.We can still collaborate with other countries." The company has joint ventures in the US and Belgium.