02 June 1999
Trade war to follow feed antibiotics ban?
By FWi staff
AN extended European ban on antibiotics used as growth promoters in animal feed could lead to a transatlantic trade war, a US spokeswoman said today (Wednesday).
The warning follows a recommendation by the Brussels-based scientific steering committee that the use of antibiotics as growth promoters should be prohibited.
The scientists believe the use of antibiotics in intensive livestock production contributes towards the growing problem of antibiotic resistance in humans.
Four other products – virginiamycin, tylosin, zinc bacitracin and spiramycin – are already banned in the European Union.
But the scientists have recommended that a further four products still in free circulation should also be taken off the market as soon as possible.
The products under threat of withdrawal are avilamycin, bambermycin, monensin sodium and salinamycin.
Sources suggest it is unlikely imports of US pigmeat produced with antibiotics would be allowed to continue if EU farmers are prevented from antibiotics.
The European Commission is due to report to agriculture ministers from the 15 EU member states on what to do about imports next month.
But Washington has already made it clear that it believes banning US meat from the European would breach World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules.
“Under international trade rules the EU cannot ban imports unless it has scientific evidence that there is a problem,” said a US spokeswoman.
“It would be in direct conflict with the WTO.”
The commission also faces fresh legal action from the manufacturers of antibiotics who have vowed to fight any ban on their products.
Cases have already been brought by two pharmaceutical companies on the grounds that the existing European ban was imposed without scientific justification.
The first hearings in both cases were held in the European Court last April and the judge is due to give his ruling imminently.