- LONDON (Reuters) - Recriminations
over the safety of beef appeared to be spreading beyond the borders of
the European Union ahead of an emergency EU farm ministers meeting on Monday.
- Even as members of the 15-nation bloc traded barbs with
each other and the outside world over the safety of their beef, the EU's
top vets failed to agree on a proposed six-month ban on the meat and bone
meal (MBM) used in animal feed and thought to cause the brain-wasting bovine
spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease.
- The disease has been linked to its fatal human equivalent,
new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD), which has killed over 80
people in Britain and two in France.
- While France and Britain quarreled over beef blockades,
Ireland sought to overturn an Egyptian boycott on its beef and the Czech
Republic banned all beef from EU countries where mad cow disease has been
- As German scientists tested soil samples from the farm
hit by Germany's first BSE case to determine whether it could be transmitted
by cattle dung, the Ukraine banned German meat.
- Public outcry for action is growing ahead of the EU farm
ministers meeting with the first discoveries of BSE in Spain and Germany
this week and the admission by three French supermarket chains that they
may have sold tainted meat.
- European Union veterinary experts left the decision to
ban MBM, basically ground up carcasses and entrails, to the EU farm ministers,
who must also consider plans to keep all cattle aged over 30 months out
of the food chain unless tested for BSE.
- Costs Will Be High
- Although the farm ministers are expected to vote in favor
of the ban, some feed and grain groups are lobbying against it and say
the costs to farmers and their industry will be very high.
- The ban will also boost demand for U.S. and South American
soymeal, much of which is genetically modified (GM), European feed industry
- ``This measure will raise the costs of feed production
substantially,'' Alexander Doring, secretary-general of the Brussels-based
European Feed Manufacturers' Federation (FEFAC), told Reuters in a telephone
- He forecast a 10-15 percent increase in European demand
for soymeal to substitute for MBM and additional costs for industry and
farmers of two billion euros ($1.73 billion) a year due to the use of more
expensive vegetable protein alternatives.
- Traders are seeking soymeal not only from major exporters
like the United States, but also from smaller suppliers such as India,
the International Grains Council said on Thursday.
- ``We'll see a vegetable protein price shock,'' Doring
- The current mad cow scare was triggered in France, where
BSE cases have more than tripled this year, leading consumers to turn their
backs on beef and some analysts to predict that even fast-food giant McDonald's
Corp would suffer.
- A Dutch feed and grain trade group urged the Netherlands
to vote against an EU-wide ban, arguing that it might be needed in some
countries to curb the spread of mad cow disease, but not in the Netherlands.
- ``Our ministry, as far as I know, shares our view on
the subject. But whether they are strong enough in Holland and in the European
Union to block this ban, I don't know,'' Gert Jan van Noortwijk, chairman
of the Royal Dutch Grain and Feed Trade Association, said.
- France, Britain, Greece and Portugal have already imposed
such a ban and Germany is due to decide on Friday whether to join them.
- French Accused Of Hypocrisy
- French Farm Minister Jean Galvany defended France against
charges of hypocrisy for asking Britain to conduct further tests before
lifting a ban on British beef, while seeking to end curbs on French beef
that several other EU partners had imposed.
- Glavany said Britain should start testing all cattle
older than 30 months, which under British law are withdrawn from the food
chain as a precaution against BSE.
- Italy's Farm Minister Alfonso Pecoraro Scanio said a
method for disposing of meat and bone meal (MBM) must be found, the EU
should acquire cattle for slaughter and Italy would fight to bring forward
a detailed system for labeling beef, which included the animal's country
- German utility RWE Power said it was looking into the
possibility of burning meat-based animal feed in coal-fired electricity
- ``The Nutrition, Agriculture and Forestry Ministry today
asked the industry for its support with the current emergency disposal
of animal-based feed,'' RWE said in a statement.
- ``The ban means that every year several hundreds of thousands
of tonnes of such feed will have to be disposed of,'' it added.
- RWE said it had agreed to check the burning of the feed
in coal-fired power plants as a possibility for its harmless disposal.
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