ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network

Date:  10 March 2001


Two items of european reports from the beeb:

 BBC Online Media Reports Friday, 9 March, 2001, 14:56 GMT

European press says agriculture in crisis; Precautionary  burning of sheep in France; The spread of foot and mouth in  Britain has been followed with mounting anxiety in Europe, and the press there has been prophesying radical change to  current farming practices. There was a time when "cows
 would answer to their own names", France's Le Nouvel   Observateur recalls. "There is no going back to the old  days, but nor can we carry on along this road," the paper  says. "It is common sense, not squeamishness, that demands  that we change our eating habits and end... this war of
 extermination that humanity has been waging against the  animal kingdom for the past two centuries in the name of  progress."
  La Libre Belgique notes that Belgium has so far been  spared foot and mouth disease, but warns that the country  is not yet out of danger. It too blames "the development of  intensive agriculture which reinforced the vulnerability of  production procedures" and the free movement of goods and
 people for the problem. For Germany's Die Zeit "the  pictures of these funeral pyres have the effect on the  public and on politicians of a symbol against  industrialised agriculture". The paper sees Britain moving  towards the less intensive methods Germany signalled its  intention of adopting, following its own experience with  mad cow disease. It quotes a British Agriculture Ministry  official saying - after a meeting between British Minister  Nick Brown and his German counterpart Renate Kuenast - that  "our ministers are pulling in the same direction". A latent
 crisis "These are unusual noises from a country which for  long has prided itself on its intensive agriculture and  looked down its nose at small-scale farmers in France and  Bavarian hill farmers."

  In the view of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung , the  malaise in agriculture is symptomatic of "a latent crisis,  which has much deeper roots and goes back a long way". The  paper says it is scandalous that with its Common  Agricultural Policy the EU "still spends 50% of its budget
 on the maintenance of ossified and unsustainable agrarian  structures". It says some governments are hoping the crisis  will pass without the need for fundamental change. "But  they are fooling themselves. There is a wind of change in  Europe. "This crisis is about more than just agriculture
 and the management of animal epidemics. It is about a  chance to launch a reform of the EU that goes much further."

 Ireland, where agriculture accounts for 10% of the nation's  GDP against the 1% in the UK, continues to express the  greatest fears of a spread of the disease. The Irish  Independent says that Finance Minister Charlie McCreevy is  being cautious over spending, in spite of the relatively
 healthy state of the country's finances. And it puts the  caution down to fears over foot-and-mouth disease - FMD.
  "Of any event that could dictate to Irish politics, there  is none more dreaded just now than FMD," the paper says.
 BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England,  selects and translates information from radio, television,  press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in  more than 70 languages. [Entered March 09, 2001]
 BBC Online Business Friday, 9 March, 2001, 18:42 GMT
 European farming under threat By the BBC's  Rodney Smith

 "European farming will have to change" shout  the headlines, after the disasters of recent months. BSE,  or mad cow disease, has spread across Europe,  foot-and-mouth disease has hit Britain and is moving east.

And all because of intensive farming, some argue. But in  the period immediately after World War Two, Europeans were  starving. The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), derided  worldwide though it may be, has fed European consumers, and  European farmers, for the last 50 years.

Changing it may be  like trying to move the British Isles closer to France -  but it will have to be done if European farming is going to  avoid repeats of the horrors taking place now. Germany is
 increasingly in the vanguard of this argument with Britain,  an old enthusiast of CAP reform, a quiet supporter of the  German position. Meat consumption fall

But what of the  short-term future for European food? With mass slaughters  seemingly happening on all sides, will there be a short-term shortage? Beef consumption is down 30-40% in  France, Germany and Spain. Consumption of lamb or mutton  and pork is falling fast as fear of foot-and-mouth disease  spreads. And huge shifts of demand in Germany and France  mean it could get worse, says food industry analyst David  Lang at Investec stockbrokers in London.

There is another,  more insidious danger. Grain production is also under  threat, if less dramatically than meat. The huge North  American grain market, which produces a large proportion of
 wheat for bread world wide, uses genetically modified seed  that is rejected by European consumers and not allowed to  be planted in Europe. Weather threat

So the European Union  may start to rely more on its own wheat resources - just at  a time when in Western Europe, the weather has joined the  mad maelstrom of mischance that is convincing farmers that the powers that be have it in for them.

Britain took the  brunt of the adverse weather at the end of last year and  the start of this year but western France wasn't far behind. The continuous and record-breaking rainfall of the  pre-Christmas months has been calculated by the Home Grown  Cereals Authority (HGCA) in London to have reduced the area  of British arable land sown to seed by 15% to 20%. British
 wheat consumption is about 12.9 million tonnes a year but  this year's harvest will be lucky to hit that mark. The  effect, according to HGCA economist Gerald Mason, is that  Britain may for the first time in 15 or 20 years not  produce enough grain for its own consumption. Not by much,
 but British farmers are used to producing an annual surplus  of up to three million tonnes.

Volatile market
Mr Mason, a  firm believer in the efficiency of the European farm  produce market and its ability to meet deficits wherever  they occur, thinks there will be little impact on consumers. Others, such as Investec's David Lang, are not so sure. He  warns that the grain markets can be notoriously volatile  when faced with sudden and unexpected shifts of supply and  demand. He warns that the grain market could be a  "tinderbox" if the British grain harvest fails to meet  demand - with consequent effects on prices at market and,  eventually, for consumers. Britain may not be alone. France  has been badly affected by weather as well, and is also  likely to produce less grain than usual. Dairy drought? And  Mr Lang points to another, so far unseen, danger in another
 area - dairy produce. Although the European food industry  is, as he puts it, awash with dairy produce, that could  change, especially in the British and western France  markets, if wet weather inhibits the growth of new grazing,  especially during the important spring period. European
 farming will have to change. As may the eating habits of  European consumers. This could be an interesting year for  weight losers and slimmers

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