21 May 1999

"Guillotine hangs over pig men"

BRITISH Pig Association chairman John Godfrey has warned struggling pig producers that banks are merely waiting for an upturn in prices before calling in debts.

Speaking at the British Meat Federation (formerly the Federation of Fresh Meat Wholesalers) annual conference last week, Mr Godfrey said the "guillotine was poised above many pig businesses". That could lead to a major reduction in the breeding herd.

"The latest figures show that the breeding herd is at 672,000. By this time next year it could be down to only 550,000 pigs. And that will have a devastating impact on abattoir throughput," he told delegates from the meat trade.

Joint efforts

He referred to the proposed merger of the BPA and NFU pig committee and called for meat traders to work more closely with the pig industry. "It is essential that we join efforts to find a way of locking in the retailers and caterers to smooth out pig cycles."

NFU president Ben Gill echoed Mr Godfreys sentiments. "We must move from an us and them industry. We have to change and you have to change. The attitude of getting one over each other cannot go on," he said. &#42

Government report set to declare that GM foods are safe

By Jonathan Riley

AMIDST a deluge of reports on genetically modified crops, the government is set to declare that GM foods are safe to eat and grow.

Cabinet Office policy enforcer Jack Cunningham will release a report on GM crop and food safety by the chief medical officer and chief scientific officer next week.

Leaked details of the report suggest that the authors could find no evidence to prove GM crops were harmful.

They judge the dangers of GM crops to be minimal and dismiss fears over GM pollen transfer, entry of modified genes into the human food chain, and entry into human tissue.

A Cabinet Office spokesman said the report formed part of a package. That is expected to include a number of measures such as the appointment of public representatives to the scientific advisory bodies monitoring GM developments.

Dr Cunninghams planned defence of biotechnology received a boost this week when a report from the Commons Science and Technology Committee accused supermarkets of "rolling over" in the face of hysterical media hype by withdrawing GM food. It claims this poor could jeopardise Britains lead in biotechnology.

The former farm ministers position will also have been bolstered by a report from the Royal Society that criticises a study by Arpad Pusztai when working at the Rowett Research Institute, Aberdeen.

Dr Pustzai claimed rats suffered damage to organs and immune systems after being fed GM potatoes. But the Royal Society rejected his findings as flawed.

The Science and Technology Committee also stressed its concerns over "structural weaknesses" within bodies like the Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment and the Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes.

It recommended the two should merge into an integrated committee considering all GM-related issues.

Meanwhile, a report from the Commons Environmental Audit Committee said that the rapid pace at which GM crops were being tested and approved was triggering disquiet and ministers should proceed more cautiously.

The committee called for an immediate moratorium on commercial planting of GM crops and a tightening of the rules governing farm-scale trials. &#42

Scottish farm posts unveiled

SCOTLANDS new farm minister is Liberal Democrat Ross Finnie.

The 52-year-old freelance chartered accountant comes from Greenock and was elected as a proportional representative member of the Scottish parliament for West of Scotland.

His new title is minister for rural affairs, with agriculture as part of that portfolio. Duties will include representing Scottish interests at EU farm council meetings.

Land reform will be steered by Liberal Democrat leader and deputy first minister, Jim Wallace. He will be aided by Labours Angus McKay, deputy minister for justice, who will concentrate on the legalities of land reform. &#42

Red meat safe

A UK expert has dismissed recent claims that eating red meat can lead to an increase in some forms of cancer, particularly colorectal cancer.

"Such suggestions just dont stand up," Michael Hill told the 600 delegates attending the World Meat Congress in Dublin this week.

Dr Hill, a British cancer expert and chairman of the European Cancer Prevention Organisation, strongly disagreed with the controversial report of the World Cancer Research Fund, which recommended that red meat intake be limited to less than 80g a day.

He said red meat consumption had fallen significantly over the past 30 years, while the incidence of colorectal cancer in Britain and Ireland had increased by more than 50% in the same period.

Mediterranean populations ate more red meat than did the British, but had much lower levels of colorectal cancer. The crucial difference, he felt, was that the consumption of "protective cereals" and vegetables in Britain had decreased. The cancer rate was not related in any way to red meat intake.

Ferry mens award

TERRY Bayliss, the chairman of Farmers Ferry, and his co-directors were presented with two awards at the annual meeting of the Farmers Union of Wales.

As chairman of the unions Gwent county branch, Mr Bayliss received the FUWs internal award for outstanding services to Welsh farming. The activities of everyone involved in the project were also recognised when Farmers Ferry won the annual external award.