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Commission accepts precautionary principle for BSE

The European Commission has endorsed the precautionary principle in relation to the bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) crisis in Member States and said the aim was now to see this taken up, according to Acting Commissioner Emma Bonino, in replying to a debate in the Europe...
The European Commission has endorsed the precautionary principle in relation to the bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) crisis in Member States and said the aim was now to see this taken up, according to Acting Commissioner Emma Bonino, in replying to a debate in the European Parliament at Strasbourg.

Opening the debate, MEP Reimer Böge warned that the BSE crisis was not yet over and it was not yet time to have confidence in the future. His report pointed to the failure of 13 Member States to comply with instructions from the Commission to take the necessary measures to deal with the problem.

Joint reporter Dagmar Roth-Behrendt underlined the need to take all necessary measures to avoid this catastrophe happening again. He emphasised that it was vital to accept the "precautionary policy" based on sound scientific advice. Consumer interests should be put before trade and other concerns, she added.

Phillip Whitehead described the BSE crisis as "a tragedy for Britain and a tragedy for Europe". He was concerned about infringement proceedings being sent to 13 Member States and the continuing need to take proper action. As he pointed out, some 2.5 million cattle had already been slaughtered and some 2,000 pages of documentation set out procedures to guard against it happening again.

Honório Novo was concerned about reports of a rise in the number of cases in Portugal.

Jim Nicholson expressed concern that BSE still posed a threat to Europe's agricultural industry, especially the damage it could cause to confidence. Nevertheless, proper controls were now in place in, for example, Northern Ireland. His concern was that the same rules did not apply to imports and this too was damaging confidence.

Declaring an interest as beef and a sheep farmer, John Corrie expressed concern about the devastation BSE had caused to farming. The tragedy was that it was seen as a British, rather than a European, problem, especially as it was now affecting the whole of the Continent. He welcomed the tough line taken by the Commission on food safety and, indeed, the huge effort that had been made to make British beef safe. He too pointed out that record-keeping in the UK was now in place and able to guarantee consumers that British beef really was safe. He pointed out that the extra burden of the inspection process was now accounting for some 75% of the total cost of controls, but this was a price well worth paying, he said. However, he did feel it was time to end the ban on beef on the bone.

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Agriculture - Food - Policies
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