THE European Commission has come under fire for refusing to impose an immediate ban on Brazilian beef imports into the European Union.
Euro-MPs have been demanding swift action in the face of growing concern about foot-and-mouth disease in Brazilian cattle.
But EU Health Commissioner Markos Kyprianou told the European Parliament that he was giving Brazil until the end of the year to improve beef quality standards before considering blocking the beef trade with the EU.
Conservative Euro-MP and farmer Neil Parish said the response was not good enough and accused the Commissioner of treating foot-and-mouth in Brazilian beef with less seriousness than in European herds.
“The Commissioner did not really get the point MEPs and farmers’ organisations have been making – that Brazilian farmers are being allowed to get away with practices that would cause a European farm to be shut down,” said Mr Parish.
“The commissioner has given Brazil until the end of the year to show significant improvements in traceability and quality control of their beef. I fear the European Commission is still allowing politics to get in the way of what should be a simple decision made on the basis of safety and equity for European farmers.
“We are fed up with being fobbed off by the Commission over this important matter. We need action sooner rather than later. I have invited the Commissioner back at the end of the year to give us an update on the actions he intends to take.”
Euro-MPs have been pressing the Commission for immediate action since a joint investigation into the state of the Brazilian beef market by the Irish Farmers’ Association and the Irish Farmers’ Journal.
It found failure to tag or trace animals, failure to administer vaccines, and failure to prevent livestock being taken across regional and national borders.
Mr Parish pointed out that the UK authorities and the Commission acted swiftly to control the recent FMD outbreak in Surrey, ensuring a temporary beef ban lasted only a fortnight.
But the evidence of lax health and safety measures in Brazil had not prompted a firm EU crackdown.
“It is wrong both to consumers and farmers to force our own producers to comply with these standards while turning a blind eye to sub-standard products from Brazil,” he said.
Irish Fine Gael MEP Colm Burke said he was still waiting for an answer from EU Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel to a written question he tabled last July questioning the Commission’s efforts to monitor effectively the safety of beef from Brazil.
“Over the last number of months there has been serious and alarm about the importation of beef from Brazil. It has become a major health concern. No effort has been made to protect Irish consumers, while Irish beef producers are losing out,” he said.
“I am looking for an explanation as to how the Commission can expect consumers to trust beef products from Brazil when there is no traceability whatsoever prior to the 90 days before it is exported to Europe. I am extremely concerned at evidence reported by the IFA of illegal movement of cattle or absence of controls on their movement, and cutting out of tags. Most worrying of all is the apparent widespread use of hormone growth promoters.
“ Ireland was forced to clamp down on this illegal practice during the 1980s and consequently we have one of the most stringent control regimes in the world and the highest quality beef.”