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Brussels, 6 May 2013
Speaking points of Commissioner Borg on the Animal & Plant Health Package
Good morning ladies and gentlemen,
"Smarter rules for safer food"! This is how I can best summarize the important package of measures adopted today by the Commission to reform Europe's agri-food chain.
We have to be proud of the system in place. It's probably the safest in the world but today's proposed reform aims to modernise, simplify and strengthen the legal framework governing official controls, animal and plant health and plant reproductive material to ensure a safer food chain.
Why? Because we have an extensive existing body of EU agri-food chain legislation: I propose to reduce to 5 the current body of almost 70 pieces of legislation. Not only is the volume of legislation cut back, but the system proposed today has been streamlined, made more efficient and easier for the actors in the agri-food chain to carry out their profession.
The EU's from farm-to-fork policy aims to ensure a high level of health for humans, animals and plants through the development of risk based rules as well as preventing, managing and mitigating risks that threaten our food chain.
Today's package is particularly relevant in the wake of the horsemeat scandal. Restoring the trust and confidence of our citizens and trading partners is key given that the agri-food industry is the second largest economic sector in the EU, employing over 48 million people and is worth some €750 billion a year.
Let me highlight three issues that will be dealt with in the context of the proposal with respect to this issue as proposed in the control regulation :
Firstly : sanctions for operators who commit fraud will be commensurate to the economic gain as a result of fraud
Secondly : the legislation now enables the Commission to require testing and controls in areas such as food fraud and not only to recommend as has currently been the case
Thirdly : the legislation now requires that official controls should also be unannounced in order to strengthen our tools to fight fraud.
Another key part of our proposal is extending and strengthening the financing of the effective implementation of these controls but it must be noted that microenterprises will be exempted from the new fees system – but not from controls.
Allow me to go briefly through the other parts of the package:
On animal health, one piece of legislation based on the principle that "prevention is better than cure" will govern the common system to better detect and control animal disease and address health, food and feed safety risks in a more coordinated way. Improved identification and registration standards as well as the introduction of more flexibility into the system will allow farmers and vets to swiftly react and limit the spread of diseases.
The importance of plant health should also not be underestimated. Crops that are grown in the EU account for €205 billion annually. Europe's agriculture, forest and natural heritage are being threatened by the introduction of new pest species as a result of globalisation and climate change. The proposal aims to address these threats by upgrading the existing plant health regime; increasing the traceability of plant material; focusing on high risk trade and providing better surveillance and early eradication of outbreaks of new pest species as well as providing financial compensation for growers.
One final word on Plant Reproductive Material- or Seeds
Allow me to highlight that 60% of the world export value in seeds originates from the EU. With this in mind, this reform provides simpler and more flexible rules for the marketing of seeds and other plant reproductive material to ensure the productivity; adaptability and diversity to Europe's crop production and to facilitate their trade.
Our aim is to introduce a broader choice for the users thus including new improved and tested varieties, material not fulfilling the variety definition (heterogeneous material), traditional varieties and niche market material. This will contribute to protection of biodiversity and to breeding oriented towards sustainable agriculture.
First I would like to point out that the compulsory registration of seeds for any commercial use is already part of the European legislation.
However we have designed our proposal to be able to take into account the type of material, production conditions and the size of the business involved.
Thus for example, for old traditional varieties and for heterogeneous material, there are only light registration rules, in the case of micro enterprises for niche markets they are completely exempted from registration rules. Such categories are exempted from the testing and other requirements of the legislation.
To conclude, today's package aims to provide smarter and fitter rules to meet the needs of all the actors involved in the food chain to carry out their roles and functions as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible.