7 September 2001

Petition on import ban is launched

A NATIONAL petition calling on the government to introduce stringent controls on food, animal and plant imports was launched this week by Britains farming unions.

NFU Scotland president, Jim Walker, says farmers are angry that, more than six months after foot-and-mouth disease hit the UK, import controls at ports and airports are still woefully inadequate.

"We have all seen the devastating effects of foot-and-mouth on animals, businesses and every aspect of rural life. But more than six months on, there is no single agency responsible for checking imports.

"Ports and airports do not have enough resources and staff for proper checks, and many travellers are unaware of what animals, plant and food products they are allowed to bring home," Mr Walker said.

Tim Bennett, NFU deputy president, said a union survey of 1000 people last month found that 50% of holidaymakers had no idea of the laws relating to the import of food and plants from abroad.

"This has happened because not enough is being done to prevent serious animal diseases and plant pests being brought across our borders illegally or unwittingly," said Mr Bennett.

The unions, backed by the Womens Food and Farming Union, young farmers groups and other regional organisations, aim to collect thousands of signatures in the coming weeks. The petition will then be presented to MPs at the Labour Party conference in Brighton on Oct 1. &#42

On the same day, said Mr Bennett, a series of demonstrations will be held around the country to raise awareness of the problem.