EU food chief: Lift BSE ban to cut grain prices

Times Online -- The EU ban on the use of animal remains to feed pigs and chickens should be lifted so that grain can be diverted to millions of starving people, one of Europe’s top food safety advisers has told The Times.
Patrick Wall, chairman of the European Food Safety Authority, questioned whether it was “morally or ethically correct” to feed grain to animals in the midst of a global food crisis.

He said that there was no scientific reason to maintain the ban.

More than 40 heads of state meet at an emergency UN food summit today to draw up an action plan over soaring food prices, which have led to riots in Haiti, Egypt, Mexico, Tanzania and Morocco. Prices for staples such as rice, soya and wheat have risen 83 per cent in three years, making them unaffordable in the poorest countries.

Ban Ki Moon, the UN Secretary-General, said that governments were paying the price for failing to invest in agriculture. This had led to an “alarming juncture” that could trigger economic and political crises, he said.
The EU ban was imposed after the BSE crisis in Britain in 1996, when the disease was linked to livestock eating animal products. Professor Wall said that it was now safe to lift the ban.

The European Commission is considering a plan to allow pigs to be fed poultry trimmings and chickens to be given pig meat to save farmers from buying expensive grain and have asked for Professor Wall’s advice. He told The Times: “Soya meal and other grain prices are going through the roof. Is it morally and ethically correct to be destroying this food when people are starving? No one I know is worried about the science. There is only concern about consumer reaction.”

A spokesman for Defra said that it was awaiting formal advice from the European Food Standards Agency. “We would only support the proposal if we were satisfied that there was no risk to human health and that appropriate and effective testing had taken place to control the use of such proteins in pig and poultry feed,” it said.