29 October 1999
Deal to end beef export row?

A COMPROMISE could be in the offing to settle the dispute over Frances refusal to import British beef.

Reports suggest that while scientists studying French evidence may come out in favour of the date-based export scheme, they could have sympathy French calls for tests on fallen stock.

This could form part of the settlement despite the British governments insistence that there will be no compromise.

EU specialist Roger Waite of Agra Facts told Radio 4s Farming Today programme this would save French face on the event of a climb-down on its unilateral ban.

“The French say you dont get a clear picture on the precise epidemiology of BSE in the UK if you dont do some sort of test on fallen stock.

“This might be some sort of figleaf one could offer. The European Commission could pay Britain to do BSE testing on fallen stock.

“That wouldnt change the date-based scheme, but it would give the French scientists something to say they have a clearer picture of the numbers of BSE cases in the UK.”

The commission might favour this solution, as it is keen to set a precedent in looking at fallen stock.

There are concerns that there might be an incentive for farmers in France, Ireland and Portugal to conceal BSE cases.

In those countries where there is a policy to slaughter the whole herd when BSE is discovered, farmers may be tempted to say an animal died on farm rather than admit it is a BSE case.

It is unlikely Europe-wide tests will be sanctioned.

The EC scientific steering committee is expected to report back to the commission with its findings today.

The three-and-a-half-year EU BSE ban on British beef was lifted in August. France refused to allow imports citing concerns over British figures on BSE cases.