Report denounced as scaremongering by farmer leaders

11 March 1998

Report denounced as ‘scaremongering’ by farmer leaders

By Johnathan Riley

INDUSTRY leaders have branded a National Consumer Council (NCC) report calling for a ban on antibiotic growth promoters “a confused attempt to inflame public anxiety”.

The NCC report — Farm Policies and Our Food: The Need for Change— blamed the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) for encouraging intensive farming methods which had led to the BSE crisis.

Released today, the report also called pesticide and fertiliser use a serious threat to public health. But it claimed the most serious health threat came from antibiotic growth promoters in cattle, sheep and pigs which it said caused antibiotic resistance in humans.

As a result, the report called for a 10-point action plan to be implemented to control farming inputs. It recommended that the Government should:

  • Join Sweden in banning growth promoters.

  • Phase out compensation payments.

  • Make farmers liable for the safety of produce.

  • Maintain bans on hormones in meat and milk production.

  • Introduce compulsory treatment records for all farm animals.

  • Speed up re-evaluation programmes for old pesticides.

  • Fund advisory programmes to encourage lower input use.

  • Fund research into less intensive production methods.

  • Ensure produce in all EU countries met EU regulations.

  • Extend the ban on mammalian meat and bone meal.

    National Office of Animal Health director Roger Cook said the NCC should check its facts before criticising British farming. He said the wide-ranging report appeared to criticise almost anything used by farmers and he accused the NCC of weaving a web of myths and legends in an attempt to inflame public anxiety.

    Mr Cook said the report was confused over the facts behind food-borne disease, antibiotic resistance, growth promoters and CAP reform.

    He said a rise in food-borne disease was linked with modern living and poor handling of food, and that evidence suggested incorrect antibiotic use in human medicine, was more to blame for antibiotic resistance.

    In response to the Swedish ban on growth promoters, Mr Cook said the Swedes had simply redesignated leading growth promoters as therapeutic medicines and were now using more medicated feed in their rations than before.

    He argued that if subsidies were withdrawn, producers would have to use more modern techniques and intensify further to compete on world markets.

    Meat and Livestock Commission spokesman Ray Barrowdale said the report was both “confusing” and “alarmist. Many of the incidents quoted were not based on British farming practices but European practices,” he said.

    Mr Barrowdale said the reports attack on the use of growth promoters in pigs was completely unfounded. Growth promoters have been used in pigs for the past 30 years and there has been no scientific evidence to suggest they are not safe, he added.

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