Health scare will lead to greener farming - EU official vows

May 5, 2001 PA News by Geoff Meade

Consumer fears over foot-and-mouth and mad cow disease will lead to less intensive and more environmentally friendly European agriculture, EU farm Commissioner Franz Fischler has promised.

He said pressure for big changes in agriculture management had been driven by public concerns about the impact of current farming methods on the food chain.

Images of burning animal carcasses and reports about the spread of BSE had made people nervous: "It is not enough for people in my position to make reassuring noises and hope that the problem will go away. To restore confidence we have to ensure that our produce is grown and harvested with care for the crops, the environment and the animals".

Mr Fischler, addressing the Brussels business community yesterday, said the Commission had already been "rigorous" in cleaning out the food chain: "We are now in a position to move forward with our plans for a less intensive and more environmentally friendly agriculture."

An overhaul of the Common Agricultural Policy was agreed by EU leaders long before the current food crises, but Mr Fischler said that the reform process must now take account of the shift in public opinion towards quality and sustainability.

But the idea of sustainable agriculture should not be confused with a return to the farming methods of a century ago.

Specific types of sustainable agriculture, such as organic farming, used sophisticated but natural techniques to fight insect parasites without resorting to pesticides, and intelligent use of manure and compost were very efficient substitutes for chemical products.

Transport for animals which respects their welfare needs reduced stress in cattle and improved meat quality, while new freezing techniques improved the quality of frozen foods and increased the safety of the food chain.

"The bottom line of food quality is food safety for everyone," said Mr Fischler.

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