21 October 1998
‘Politics ruled MAFF during BSE crisis’

By FWi staff

THE Ministry of Agriculture was driven more by politics than science in the way it dealt with the BSE crisis, the official inquiry into the disease was told today (Wednesday).

Professor Sir William Stewart, the Governments former chief scientific adviser, said ministers were more concerned with minimising the political damage of the crisis than telling the truth.

“What happened has always appeared to me to be driven not by science, but by chance, a paucity of know-how, secrecy, MAFFs role in support of the producer and perhaps by political expediency,” Sir William said in a written statement.

Sir William said that BSE was a highly sensitive issue with big implications for the food and farming industries in the UK.

“To some extent the secrecy surrounding the issue was understandable,” he said.

“MAFF, with a responsibility for the agricultural and food industries as well as animal health, was placed in a virtually impossible and untenable situation.”