Mad Cow Crisis Reaches
'Alarming' Proportions In Europe

BRUSSELS - While the potential human cost of mad cow disease is well known, the European Union's top agricultural minister said on Monday the crisis has reached proportions that threaten the farming sector across the union.
With demand for beef falling 27 per cent across the continent since October, stockpiles of beef are growing into mountains. And all that surplus meat is being stored. The bill for storage could come to $6 billion.
T-bone steak is banned
The European Commission has asked farmers to sell all their animals older than 30 months for immediate destruction. It had already ordered tests for bovine spongiform encephalopathy on all animals older than 30 months and banned feed made with animal parts.
The purchase-for-destruction scheme could cost $4 billion this year alone as up to two million cattle might be destroyed.
"The crisis on the beef market goes further than one might think. The latest market indications are alarming," EU Farm Commissioner Franz Fischler told the meeting of farm ministers in Brussels.
"Within the budget, we have no room to manoeuvre."
The continent has been in the grip of fears over the disease and its devastating human variant since last fall, when contaminated meat was accidentally sold in a French supermarket.
About 80 people have died in Britain of new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Another two have died in France.
After seeing the devastating effects of the brain-wasting disorder and after cows were diagnosed with mad cow disease in several continental countries people stopped buying beef.
The ministers have also agreed to ban cuts of meat that contain parts of the spine, including T-bone and rib-eye steaks over the objections of Spain and Italy.
The economic effects of the measures could be felt for years to come. They will likely force the EU to go far beyond its planned agricultural budget.
And they may cause the European agriculture sector to rethink its practices of intensive industrial farming.
Meetings were also held in Washington, London and Berlin on Monday, as governments around the world try to find new strategies to deal with rising consumer fears and a collapsing beef market.

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