18 June 1998
NFU concerned about changes
to born-after proposal
By Boyd Champness and Johann Tasker
THE National Farmers Union today (Thursday) expressed concern about changes made to Britains date-based export scheme – the proposal under which UK officials hope to get the beef ban lifted.
Farmers and the meat industry last week welcomed a decision by the EC to accept the date-based scheme. But a number of influential figures, including Dr Jack Cunningham, agriculture minister, voiced concerns about last-minute changes made to the proposal by the EC.
One of the UKs two concerns relates to animals born after 1 August, 1996, whose mothers have later developed BSE. To avoid any risk of maternal transmission of BSE the offspring must be identified and slaughtered.
The proposal in its present form says a cull of all possibly infected offspring must be carried out, whether the animals is for export or not, and the slaughtered animals incinerated and rendered – before can exports resume.
There are an estimated 5,500 offspring born to mothers with BSE in the UK; and the Government fears that no exports will be allowed while BSE cases continue to trickle through to the authorities.
An NFU spokeswoman said the union has already demanded clarification on this point before the proposal goes any further.
The other issue causing concern is that the wording of the proposal in its current form not only calls for the removal and the incineration of British bones, but wants them to be classified as specified risk materials (SRMs).
“We are concerned that UK beef bones would have to be treated as SRMs. Other countries would not be required to do this and it could later become a competitive disadvantage,” she said.
“This is a matter we are seeking to have excluded from the scheme, but we have to make a judgement on the progress of the scheme. We wouldnt to do anything that might slow down that process unless we felt it was a serious problem,” she added.
Speaking to FWi, Dr Cunningham confirmed that there were some problems with the wording of the proposal in its current form.
Asked if the UK was considering voting against the proposal until the wording was amended Dr Cunningham said: “Theres no question of us wanting to turn down a scheme weve been anxious to get for the last few months.”
Dr Cunningham said the matter was before the Standing Veterinary Committee at present and there was no opportunity for the UK to vote on it until its passed to farm council.
“All I can say is weve yet to see a final decision and proposal emerge from the Standing Veterinary Committee and until that happens Im not going to speculate on what might happen,” he added.