Mad Cow - France Calls
For 'Immediate Moratorium'
On Bone Meal In Feed

PARIS (AFP) - French Environment Minister Dominique Voynet has called for an "immediate moratorium" on the use of bone meal in animal feed for poultry and pigs.
"I ask for an immediate moratorium on the use of bone meal in feeding pigs and poultry, (while we await) the response from the French food safety agency (AFSSA)," Voynet said in an interview with the daily Le Monde, to be published Sunday.
Animal grounds and bone meal are considered at the root of the "mad cow" disease or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) problem, and fears have been raised that the disease could jump species from cows.
Voynet said it was "the responsibility of the government to take measures ... to reassure our citizens."
Her position was apparently contrary to that of the government of Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, which is awaiting a report from AFSSA before making a decision on the use of bone meal.
But the goverment may still impose a moratorium on bone meal in "the next few days," the paper wrote.
Asked about an eventual permanent ban, Voynet said "we will decide that according to AFSSA's opinion, which is expected in three months."
A permanent ban on bone meal would cost France between three and five billion francs (457 and 762 million euros, 393 and 654 million dollars), a joint estimate by the environment and agriculture ministries calculated.
Voynet also accused British industrialists of irresponsibility, who "believed they could decide that cows were no longer herbivores but omnivores. Today we're paying the consequences of that irresponsibility."
Agriculture Minister Jean Glavany said Friday a bone meal man was inevitable, but that it should be made as "an inclusive, intelligent, and serious decision. We will take the decision when we are ready to take it."
Meanwhile, customers on Saturday flocked to the Batignolles organic food market in the fashionable 17th arrondissement in Paris, apparently seeking reassurance from the food scares by choosing organic products.
"Our customers know already that the other (non-organic butchers) are crazy," one of the butchers there told AFP.
Organic food made up one percent of France's national food sales in 1999, but the national federation of organic agriculture said it expected that figure to rise to five percent by 2005.
Alarm over mad cow disease has spread quickly since it was revealed last month that eight tons of meat potentially contaminated with BSE had been sold to French supermarkets.
President Jacques Chirac on Tuesday further put pressure on the Jospin government to take action by calling for an immediate ban on bone meal in animal feed.
French authorities have said that a complete ban on meat- and bone-meal feed could be implemented following a probe by the state food safety authority which could take up to four months.
Paris's main wholesale market has reported that beef sales declined by 41 percent in the last five weeks, and a new industry study Thursday showed a drop of 30 percent in beef consumption nationally in the week to November 5.

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