20 April 2001
‘Three years before exports re-start’

By Alistair Driver

A GOVERNMENT adviser has warned that it could take British farmers three years to resume meat and livestock exports after the foot-and-mouth crisis.

Gareth Davies, a former European Commission senior epidemiologist, said it could take three years to convince trading partners that meat is disease-free.

Mr Davies was speaking at a media briefing by the Soil Association, which represents organic farmers, in London on Friday (20 April).

The Soil Association is calling for vaccination to control foot-and-mouth.

But opponents believe that inoculating animals would increase the amount of time it would take for Britain to be officially declared disease-free.

Nevertheless, Mr Davies argued that it would take a long time before British exports resumed whether or not livestock was vaccinated.

Even if vaccination was not used, there would have to be a huge blood-testing programme to convinced trading partners British meat was disease-free, he said.

Soil Association director Patrick Holden said opposition from the National Farmers Union and some food companies was holding up vaccination.

The Food Standards Agency has said there that vaccinated meat presents no risk to human health, and supermarkets have agreed to stock supplies.

“Any company which blocks purchases is working against the national interest and the interests of sustainable farming,” said Mr Holden.

Soil Association president Jonathan Dimbleby said the NFU represented only half of all British farmers. NFU members were split on vaccination, he claimed.

A Soil Association survey of its own members came out overwhelmingly in support of a vaccination programme, he said.

The Government has postponed plans to vaccinate cattle, despite support for the plan from its chief scientist, in the face of opposition from the NFU.

However, even organic farmers are split on the subject of vaccination.

Alec Telfer, chairman of the Scottish Organic Producers Association, said vaccination went against organic principles.

Inoculation would have devastating consequences for all livestock producers, and it remained to be seen whether consumers would buy the meat, he said.

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Foot-and-mouth – confirmed outbreaks
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