9 July 1999

Brown listens to aides before

OP decision made

FARM minister Nick Brown is taking urgent advice from his officials before deciding whetherto ban organophosphate sheep dips.

Mr Brown said that the conclusions in the Institute of Occupational Medicines report, showing that exposure to OPs, particularly the concentrate, can cause low-level, long-term nerve damage, made "an important contribution to the debate".

Having asked his advisers to look urgently at the report, he said any decision on the future of OPs would centre on the need to protect human health.

Speaking at a show press conference, the minister again insisted that the calf processing scheme would definitely end on July 31. But he had better news about the beef ban, confidently predicting that de-boned British beef was "only weeks away", although the exact timing was in the hands of the EU Commission.

Mr Brown also said he planned to meet ministers from the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly shortly to discuss the beef-on-the-bone ban. Government was still awaiting a final scientific review from Oxford University and ministers would then assess the advice given by their medical advisers.

"I want to lift the ban but we must act on scientific advice. And I hope we can do that on a UK basis," he said.

Mr Brown added that the suggestion earlier this year from the Chief Medical Officer, that the ban could be lifted by August, still seemed realistic. In addition, after a plea from NFU president Ben Gill, Mr Brown promised that he and his officials would do all they could to minimise unnecessary regulation in the industry.