22 October 1999

Hormone stance

SCIENTIFIC advisers have told the government that the EUs continuing ban on imports of hormone-treated beef is not justified by its own information.

At the request of farm minister Nick Brown, the independent sub-group of the Veterinary Products Committee has looked into the EUs assessment, and concluded that the risks to human health have been exaggerated.

Despite this, MAFF says it is prepared to continue supporting the EUs block on imports, even though it disagrees with the principle. "The ban has always been fully implemented in the UK and will continue to be so until EU legislation is changed," said Mr Brown.

Some observers say Mr Brown has only gone public with the VPC report as a political gesture – to show the French that, even though the UK does not like all the EUs rules, it at least abides by them.

Others have suggested that the US may be about to step up its campaign of taxing EU goods in retaliation for the hormone ban, and MAFF is looking to curry favour with Washington, so that UK produce is not targeted.