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Brussels, 26 October 1999

Commission proposes ban on BST

The European Commission adopted a proposal to ban the use and marketing of Bovine Somatotrophin (BST) in the European Union as from 1 January 2000 on animal health and welfare grounds. This proposal follows the opinion of the Scientific Committee on Animal Health and Animal Welfare. BST is a hormone which increases milk production when injected into dairy cows. A moratorium on BST was already introduced in 1990. The ban has no impact on imports of dairy or meat products from third countries.

Commenting on this proposal, David Byrne, Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, said : "The scientific advice provided to the Commission confirms the need for the ban which has been in place for the past decade and which is fully supported by the Member States and the public. Animal health and welfare will both be better protected as a result". Mr Byrne rejected allegations of protectionism. "Imports of milk and meat products are unaffected by the ban. The EU has simply given a higher priority to animal health than to lower cost milk production."

The European Union already banned the placing on the market and the use of BST in dairy cows in 1990. The moratorium was extended by the Council in 1994 until 31st December 1999. Before putting this proposal on the table of the Council, the Commission asked the opinion of two Scientific Committees which were delivered in March 1999.

The Scientific Committee on Animal Health and Animal Welfare (SCAWAH) adopted on 10 March 1999 its report on Animal Welfare Aspects of the Use of Bovine Somatotrophin and stated that BST increases the risk of clinical mastitis as well as the duration of treatment of mastitis, that it increases the incidence of foot and leg disorders and that it can affect adversely reproduction as well as induce severe reactions at the injection site.

Council Directive 98/58/EC concerning the protection of animals kept for farming purposes states that no other substance with the exception of those given for therapeutic or prophylactic purposes shall be administered to an animal unless it has been demonstrated by scientific studies of animal welfare or established experience that the effect of the substance is not detrimental to the health or welfare of the animal. BST is not used in cattle for therapeutic purposes, but only to enhance milk production. Therefore it results from the opinion of the SCAHAW that BST should not be used in dairy cows .

The Scientific Committee on Veterinary Measures relating to Public Health (SCVPH) acknowledged in its opinion of 16 March 1999 that significant gaps exist in scientific knowledge on the possible effects of the use of BST on public health and asked for further studies. The Commission is aware that there remains scientific uncertainty concerning human health implications and its intention is to pursue these matters through further scientific studies and research and if, necessary, by requesting at the appropriate time a new opinion from one of its Scientific Committees.

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