Not sole basis – McKechnie

10 January 1997

Not sole basis – McKechnie

OPPOSING the motion, Sheila McKechnie, director of the Consumers Association, agreed that decisions of food policy should take account of good science, but strongly objected to science being the sole consideration.

BSE had shown that, despite Mr Dorrells speech, government paid little attention to science. Nor did it seem to know what science was. The latest selective cull announcement was described by the prime minister as being based on new scientific evidence, while farm minister, Douglas Hogg, said there was no scientific justification for the cull.

And science did not help with BSE. Scientists were still unable to determine the nature of the infective agent, how it spread, or how many humans might die as a result of new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, she said.

More important than science was the need to adopt precautionary principles when dealing with public health. And, she said, BSE was a failure not of science or producers. "It was a failure of the regulatory process, leaving consumers with no trust in the system."

There had to be a better way, Ms McKechnie maintained. There had to be a sustainable, transparent system, run by a group whose only job was to assess the risks to public health and safety.

The final vote showed 277 in favour of the motion with 155 against.

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