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Minister Smith meets EU Health Commissioner in Dublin

The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Brendan Smith TD, today met the newly appointed EU Commissioner for Health, Ms Androula Vassiliou in Dublin. The Minister said the meeting had been extremely useful and allowed for a full discussion of a very wide range of important issues in relation to animal health and welfare, pesticide controls and on-farm inspections, which fall within Commissioner Vasiliou's brief.

Minister Smith raised the issue of the age at which cattle are required to be tested for BSE. "I believe that it is appropriate to introduce a significant adjustment in the age of testing in the light of the substantial progress made in the incidence of BSE in the cattle herd, and I asked the Commissioner to give urgent attention to finalising this point," said Minister Smith.

"I also reiterated our difficulty with the proposal to introduce electronic identification (EID) for sheep. The Commissioner confirmed that the Commission had now commenced an economic impact assessment of the issue as had been requested by Ireland in December."

In relation to the importation of pets, the Minister requested the Commissioner to propose an extension of the special provisions applying in the case of certain rabies-free countries beyond the current expiry date of June 2010.

The Minister and Commissioner also exchanged views on a range of other animal health and welfare issues including the bluetongue epidemic in Europe, labelling, EU import arrangements and issues relating to animal welfare and transport.

In relation to the recent first reading of new rules for the approval of pesticides, the Minister reiterated Ireland's view that these should be based on the scientific principle of risk assessment. "I emphasised my concern that some important products could be removed from the market without achieving any real improvement in human and environmental exposure to these types of substances," Minister Smith said.

The Minister explained to the Commissioner Ireland's long-standing view that appropriate advance notice should be given in all cases for on-farm inspections for cross compliance. He said that there was an opportunity to address this issue in the CAP Health Check which is now being negotiated. The Commissioner indicated that she understood Ireland's position but took the view that the current provisions in relation to the items within her remit were necessary to protect food safety and animal health.

Notes

Commissioner Vasiliou is a lawyer by profession. She is the former first lady of Cyprus (1988-1993) and a former member of the Cyprus House of Representatives.

Date Released: 11 July 2008