7 September 2001

PRESCRIPTION-ONLYMOVEONSTOCKMEDICINES ISTRULYDAFTLEGISLATION

What did you do the last time you had a headache?

The chances are you went to the nearest shop or petrol station to pick up a packet of Aspirin.

You would not have wasted precious NHS time and money by going to the doctor and getting him or her to write out a prescription.

So why should it be any different for your livestock? Thats the upshot of a new EU proposal to make all farm animal health products Prescription Only Medicines (POM).

If Brussels gets its way, everything from wormers to teat dips will have to be prescribed by the vet, rather than picked up from your local merchant or country store. According to the commission "the proposals are aimed at ensuring a high level of consumer safety, with maximum benefits for animal health and welfare".

In fact, the effect will be just the reverse. The immediate impact will be to give vets a monopoly on supplying animal medicines, resulting in significant price hikes.

Farmers will also have less choice. The combined effect could be to encourage a black market in certain vaccines and anthelmintics, which will be more difficult to control.

It may also compromise farm animal welfare. Farmers will be understandably reluctant to call out a vet if an animal is looking off-colour. He will adopt a wait-and-see approach.

The proposal could also cost jobs. Pharmacy and Merchants List (PML) medicines are a significant line of business for many merchants and co-ops. About 3500 people distribute them.

Ending PML will take away their livelihoods, adding them to the ranks of rural unemployed.

Above all, the Brussels plan is totally disproportionate. It takes no account of the type of product involved or the associated risks.

The PML system is tightly controlled and has served the industry well for many years.

Farmers need this draft, no daft, legislation like a hole in the head.