Commissioner Byrne calls for defence against bioterrorism

Commissioner for health and consumer protection, David Byrne, called for an urgent review of EU defence mechanisms against potential bioterrorism attacks on its food chain. The commissioner told EU ministers of agriculture in Luxembourg on 23 October that he would talk to several ministers of health later this week to discuss relevant defence mechanisms.

Commissioner Byrne told the farm ministers that the recent experiences with foot and mouth disease and classical swine fever highlight “the huge damage which can result from the introduction of viruses against which our animal population are vulnerable”. He emphasised that the EU’s food production and distribution systems are vulnerable to potential attacks.

The Commission will raise the issue of bio-terrorism at the meetings of the Standing Committee on Foodstuffs, and the Standing Veterinary Committees on Public Health and the Veterinary Health. “The intention is to begin a process for the urgent review of our present defence systems against any potential bio-terrorism attack in the areas of animal and food production,” said Mr Byrne.

The farm ministers discussed several other issues at the Council meeting in Luxembourg:

  • BSE: latest scientific research on possible occurrence of BSE in sheep and goats.
  • GMOs: Commission’s proposals from July for new directives on GMO labelling and traceability (see EURACTIV of25 July 2001), and on labelling of animal feed (see EURACTIV of12 October 2001). The Commission hopes that these new proposals will lead to the lifting of the moratorium on the marketing of new GMOs in the EU. However, the GMO working group did not give their opinion at their first meeting in mid-October. Austria, Denmark, France, Greece, Italy and Luxembourg are not willing to authorise new GMOs until new directives come into force.
  • Beef market: the ministers discussed the bad situation in the beef market and asked the Commission and the special agriculture committee to prepare proposals for a dynamic management of this market.
  • Foot and mouth disease: the UK delegation expressed the hope that EU restrictions against Britain can gradually be lifted as there have been no new cases of this disease since 30 September.


The European Commission adopted an action plan to respond to potential threats of bio and nuclear terrorism on 12 October (see EURACTIV of11 October 2001). Another package of measures will be adopted at a conference organised by the Belgian Presidency of the EU in the beginning of December. This conference will prepare a short, medium and long-term working programme to defend the EU from threats of nuclear, biological and chemical warfare.


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