Brussels unveils agri-food safety plan

Brussels has unveiled proposals for a “landmark package” it says will modernise, simplify and strengthen food safety across Europe.

The reform package will cover plant health, seeds, animal health, official controls and a common financial framework for food and feed.

The proposed regulations aim to simplify, yet strengthen, rules while removing avoidable duplications and unnecessary burdens, said the European Commission.

On plants, the review would help ensure the health, identity and quality of plant reproductive material – including seeds and plant propagating material.

Rules on varietal registration and the certification of plant reproductive material before marketing would be maintained, with a lighter regime for traditional and niche varieties.

This would give farmers a broader choice, including new improved and tested varieties, while helping to protect biodiversity and breeding oriented towards sustainable agriculture.

The principle of cost recovery would be introduced to ensure the “necessary resources for the competent authorities”. But designated micro-enterprises would be exempt.

Concerning fees for variety registration, the proposal foresees a fee reduction for varieties with officially recognised descriptions and heterogeneous material.

On animal health, Brussels wants a simpler and more flexible framework based on the principle that “prevention is better than cure”.

The proposal would replaces a body of 40 directives and regulations with a single piece of legislation aimed at a more risk-based approach.

This would cover enhanced disease preparedness and increased disease prevention for listed diseases, and will give the primary responsibility for animal health to animal keepers.

Rules on official controls had been reviewed to simplify and clarify the system and create a single framework for all official controls along the agri-food chain, the commission said.

European farm group Copa-Cogeca welcomed the package, saying increased simplification would reduce almost 70 pieces of legislation to just five.

“We have long been calling for simplification of this community legislative framework,” said Copa-Cogeca secretary-general Pekka Pesonen.

“The move will cut red tape and costly obligations and administrative burdens for farmers and industry substantially.”

In the wake of the recent scandal that saw beef products contaminated with horsemeat, it was pleasing to see that penalties and sanctions would be stepped up.

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