16 February 1996

IS WELFARE THREATENED BY HORMONES?

RESEARCH into the animal welfare effects of using hormones in meat production must continue, says the European Commission.

After holding its scientific conference on using growth promoters in meat production last November, the Commission agreed with scientific research stating naturally occurring hormones pose no risk to human health when used in the correct amounts. But it sought further research into the animal health effects.

European Farm Commissioner Franz Fischler has also warned that scientific aspects are only one part of the equation in deciding whether the EUs ban on hormone-treated meat should be lifted.

Surveys show EU consumption would drop by 20-30% if the prohibition were removed, he argues. Hormone abuse is also worldwide and even if some substances are authorised it would not prevent a black market developing, he added.

He stresses there are substantial concerns for human health about using beta agonists, such as clenbuterol, as growth promoters. His position has been backed by most member states, Euro-MPs, consumer, trade and EU farm organisations which oppose all use of growth promoters in meat production. The EU Consumer Group (BEUC) argues: "Consumers increasingly insist foodstuffs should be produced as naturally as possible."

The commission stresses it intends to defend EU policy, after the US took the case to the World Trade Organisation (WTO). The US argues the import prohibition must be lifted for the five hormones considered to be scientifically safe for human health. &#42

Amanda Cheesley

EU Farm Commissioner Franz Fischler: Scientific aspects are only one part of the equation.