12 October 1998
Government considers gene database for cattle

THE Government is considering implementing a genetic database of British cattle.

The database would form part of the scheme to eradicate BSE by tracing the movement of animals in the national herd. It could result in inspectors being able to trace which cow produced an individual portion of meat on the supermarket shelf.

Discussions with computer companies capable of implementing such a system have already taken place.

Interest in a genetic database comes two weeks after the British Cattle Movement Service (BCMS) came into operation. But concern exists that ear-tags can be switched if farmers or livestock dealers want to avoid the ban on the sale of animals over 30 months old for human consumption.

The genetic database could cost as much as £30 million. This figure could be reduced if a partial database was compiled using stored blood samples that could be genetically analysed only when a match is required.

  • The Independent 12/10/98 page 8