CSS renewal chance

20 August 1999


link prompts call

for antibiotic cut

By Jonathan Riley

AN independent advisory committee has warned the government that the way antibiotics are used on-farm must change after it found "conclusive evidence" of a link between resistance to antibiotics in animals and resistance to drugs in human medicine.

The evidence was revealed on Wednesday in a new report, Microbial Antibiotic Resistance in Relation to Food Safety, produced by a working party from the Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety.

Working party chairman, Douglas Georgala, said: "Our science advisers gave us clear and conclusive evidence that resistance can be communicated between animals and man very easily.

"The drive by the Department of Health to minimise the use of antibiotics in clinical medicine must now be matched by the veterinary profession and a strategy is needed to reduce antibiotic usage."

He listed the committees recommendations to government, which included further research and surveillance to establish the depth of the problem and a call for "a more cautious approach to the use of antibiotic growth promoters".

But Prof Georgala said the issue went beyond growth promoters and included antibiotic treatments for clinical diseases.

Committee member Mac Johnston, professor of veterinary public health at the Royal Veterinary College, London, added that controls governing the manufacture and use of in-feed antibiotics also needed further tightening.

Prof Johnston said that, during its research, the working party had established that some vets over-prescribed antibiotics.

That was a key point in a second report on antibiotics published by organic body the Soil Association this week, which took a much tougher line on the issue.

The report, The Use and Misuse of Antibiotics in UK Agriculture, warned that antibiotic resistance could cause a major epidemic of diseases and could eventually prove more costly than the BSE crisis.

The association called for stricter controls of vets to prevent over-prescribing of drugs, with a single independent body established to scrutinise vet practices and to carry out on-farm monitoring.

Spokesman Richard Young said the prevalence of the major food poisoning bugs – E coli, salmonella, enterococci and campylobacter – was directly linked to overuse of antibiotics in agriculture.

"Bacterial resistance has now developed in all classes of antibiotics and the real problem is that no new class has been developed in the last 20 years," he said.

The association added that the growth promoting antibiotic avilamycin, should be banned immediately with existing stocks destroyed because the drug was virtually identical to Ziracin, a new treatment being piloted in British hospitals to treat resistant strains of pneumonia and meningitis.

Commenting on both reports the NFUs animal health and welfare adviser Peter Rudman said a more responsible approach to the use of antibiotics was already being tackled by the cross industry group the Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture Alliance. &#42

Angry landlord of the Builders Arms, Leamington Spa, Russell Soden, pours away German beers as he bans the sale of them in protest against the Germans continuing to ban the sale of British beef.


uBRUSSELS has authorised three state aid schemes in Belgium to compensate producers and processors who have had pigmeat, beef or poultrymeat destroyed as a result of the dioxin crisis. An upper limit of 80% of the cost price of affected products is being imposed.

uA NEW rural development White Paper for Ireland was launched this week, emphasising Dublins commitment to a vibrant, rural economy. "Rural proofing" of all national policies will be introduced, so policy makers in any field take full account of countryside issues when drawing up new legislation. "But maintaining a healthy agriculture is (still) an essential component of a comprehensive rural development strategy," said junior farm minister Noel Davern.

uEU farm commissioner, Franz Fischler, has given a relatively warm response to suggestions that a new pan-European food agency could be created to counter the rising tide of food scares. "Potential new dangers are all around," he said in reply to a European parliament questionnaire. "It is worth considering whether some functions of an overall food policy could be more effectively carried out by an agency."

uEUROPEAN agriculture lost the equivalent of 115,000 full-time workers in 1998, a fall of 1.7% according to Brussels statistical agency, Eurostat. Germany led the decline, with a 4.1% drop in its workforce, while the UK faced a 1.6% contraction. EU farm output, however, rose by 1.5% reflecting further productivity gains. &#42

M&S removes GM soya

MARKS and Spencer claims to be the first high street retailer to start removing GM soya and maize from animal feed.

The retailer says the move to provide meat, milk and eggs from livestock reared on GM-free diets is in response to consumer demand.

"Our customers continue to ask for further choice in the GM debate," says Tom Clayton, head of food technology at M&S. "We have responded by changing the feed in the production of free range chicken, eggs and pork. Customers will be able to purchase these products from selected stores from October." &#42

USfarmers still propped up by Washington $s

WASHINGTON continues to prop up its beleaguered farming industry with a raft of new subsidies to help producers survive the current market depression.

Pig farmers are the latest beneficiaries with another $100m (£62m) paid out in cash. Aimed at small and medium-sized businesses, in fact almost 100,000 farmers, or 90% of the countrys total, will get the handouts.

That will build on the $50m (£31m) already paid to pig producers in March, said deputy agriculture secretary, Richard Rominger.

Last week the US Department of Agriculture also announced it was putting another $50m (£31m) into its emergency farm loans scheme, which provides low interest finance to farmers hit by natural disasters.

"We have already made nearly $287m (£177m) in emergency loans this year, an increase of 222% over last year," said agriculture secretary Dan Glickman.

Emergency conservation funds – used to support water projects – have also been topped up. So far this year, over $10m (£6.2m) has been allocated to drought-affected states and last week Mr Glickman announced a further $5m (£3.1m) for West Virginia.

To be eligible, farmers must have suffered at least a 30% drop in yield. Ten states have so far been designated agricultural disaster areas due to drought. &#42

Wheres pork from?

PIG farmers have challenged the major supermarkets claims that assured, imported meat matches British standards of health, welfare and traceability.

Members of the British Pig Industry Support Group visited 40 supermarkets across the country last week and bought packs of bacon and ham branded as assured.

They then sent the wrappers by recorded delivery to the headquarters of the big supermarkets, including ASDA, Tesco, Somerfield and Morrisons, asking them to tell BPISG where the meat was sourced.

Angry that the quantity of all bacon labelled as British is only 54% (down 4% since April) and 57% of all ham (down 12% since April), BPISG chairman Stewart Houston said: "We expect the supermarkets to provide us with full and detailed provenance of the chosen meats and we trust they will do it quickly." &#42

RSPCAwarns against using calves for stunts

By FWreporters

FARMERS have been warned by the RSPCA not to use calves as a publicity stunt to highlight the problems of finding markets for black-and-white bull calves.

The condemnation followed an incident earlier this week when 13 calves were left at an RSPCA wildlife hospital in Cheshire.

But farmer Rob Sims said that he and the other producers involved wanted the RSPCA to use its influence with the government to produce a practical solution. He added that the publicity surrounding the event had given the farmers a chance to explain the problems they faced.

Peter Davies, RSPCA director general, said the charity did not have facilities to cope with large numbers of calves. And, while sympathetic to farmers plight, he said any unnecessary suffering caused to animals through "stunts of this kind" could result in prosecution. The society had written to MAFF and the NFU asking for an urgent meeting, he added.

The Cheshire action followed the much-publicised delivery of 43 Holstein bull calves to television playwright Carla Lanes animal sanctuary in Sussex late last week.

Four dairy farmers from Somerset, Chris Barber, Justin Farthing, Julius Longman and Neil Christensen, took the calves, along with calf milk powder and a feeder, and asked Ms Lane to look after the animals. She agreed, although she admitted she had no idea what she would do with the cattle.

"She was very good about it, and said she understood the farmers problem, and made clear in media interviews that the four were good, caring, responsible farmers. But she would not change her mind about her opposition to live exports," said Mr Barber.

He was stung into action when three calves made £1.76, which was less than the markets charges. The NFU had warned farmers not to get involved in such action as it was likely to result in bad publicity, but the Somerset four ignored it.

"I have to admit we were holding our breath more than most in case it backfired on us. But it went very well," said Mr Barber.

He does not want a return of the calf processing scheme. "That would just be papering over the cracks," he said. "We need positive action – resumption of live calf exports done in a correct manner, and some initiatives in this country to use some of the calves."

The NFU has called on the government to look at reinstating calf exports. In the meantime, the union is calling for a national disposal scheme to ensure farmers have free access to slaughtering facilities for poor quality calves.

lWelsh farm minister, Christine Gwyther, declined "a gift" of two calves from Pembrokeshire farmers during her visit to the county show this week. &#42

French in sewage scare

BRUSSELS is sending a team of top hygiene inspectors to France to investigate allegations that treated sewage sludge has been used in animal feed production.

The scare started in early June with reports in the French satirical newspaper, Canard Enchaine, that a number of manufacturers had been using the sludge, quoting heavily from a report by fraud investigators.

These claims were picked up by a German TV station last week, prompting Joachim Heine, deputy director general for agriculture at the EU Commission, to write to the French government.

A response from Paris over the weekend confirmed that there had been a problem – involving three rendering plants and a gelatine factory – but this had been discovered at the start of the year and had already been dealt with.

Despite these reassurances, the commission announced this week that it was sending a team of officials to France to investigate. &#42

CSS renewal chance

FARMERS are to be given the chance to renew Countryside Stewardship Scheme agreements once they come to the end of their 10-year lives.

Junior farm minister Elliot Morley said that, when the first agreements come to an end in 2001, they will be renewed if they continue to provide environmental value for money. "As agreements come to an end we intend to look at each one individually to see how best to preserve the benefits." &#42

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