Brussels Bulletin: A round-up of news and views from the EU

By Flora Southey

- Last updated on GMT

Brussels Bulletin: A round-up of news and views from the EU

Related tags Brussels European union

In this edition of the Brussels Bulletin, the European Union agrees to accept 35,000 tonnes of non-hormone treated beef from the United States, EFSA questions the safety of a whipworm egg as a food supplement, and pesticide chlorphyrifos comes under the spotlight.

EU and US sign hormone-free beef agreement

The European Union and the United States have signed an agreement regarding the existing quota to import hormone-free beef into the EU.

The agreement follows on from a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between the two nations in 2009 – and revised in 2014 – regarding the use of certain growth-promoting hormones in beef production.

Per the agreement, a set quota of 45,000 tonnes of non-hormone treated beef was open by the EU to qualifying suppliers, including the US.

According to the most recently signed deal, 35,000 tonnes of that quota will now be allocated to the US. This will be phased over a seven-year period. The remaining 10,000 tonnes will be available for other exporters.

The agreement will now pass to the European Parliament for formal approval.

The proposal has not been warmly welcomed by European farming bodies, who say the sector is already under pressure from increased imports allowed under the Mercosur trade deal with Latin American countries. 

Irish Farmers' Association livestock chairman, Angus Woods, said beef imports are seriously undermining EU and Irish beef prices. A new EU/US 'sweetheart deal' with President Donald Trump on beef imports will further undermine the sector, which is in crisis, he insisted. 

Woods said this is another example of beef farmers being 'sacrificed' for other sectors and described the deal between the EU and the US, announced by Trump yesterday evening, on the non-hormone beef quota as a “backdoor arrangement” facilitated by the recent Mercosur agreement.

“The EU has reallocated most of the non-hormone quota to the US and allocated the South American countries that had used most of this quota an additional 99,000t of extra quota, in the Mercosur deal.”

EFSA raises concerns over whipworm egg safety

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) says it is unable to establish an agreed, safe dose of whipworm egg for human consumption.

The announcement follows German company Enteron Science’s application for the eggs to be used as a food supplement – and more specifically as an immune booster.

According to Enteron, the eggs could offer health benefits to those suffering from inflammatory bowel disease, multiple sclerosis and allergic rhinitis.

“The Panel considers that there are no studies available that demonstrate the safety of this NF intended for the general population at a proposed intake of 250 viable embryonated eggs of Trichuris suis ova per day,” ​wrote EFSA.

“Based on the available information, the Panel cannot establish a safe dose at which no safety concerns would be expected. The Panel concludes that the safety of the NF has not been established.”

EFSA is unable to agree to safe dose of whipworm egg ©GettyImages/Giorez

EU helps farmers in ‘waves of drought’

The European Commission is offering support to farmers suffering from the ‘waves of drought’ hitting the continent.

The response is two-fold: farmers will receive a higher percentage of their direct and rural development payments ahead of schedule, and be granted greater flexibility to use land for animal feed. This concerns land that would not normally be used for production.

More specifically, farmers will be able to receive up to 70% of their direct payments and 85% of rural development payments to help improve their cash flow.

And derogations from certain ‘greening’ requirements will be permitted – granting farmers greater flexibility to produce fodder.

“These prolonged climate conditions are worrying for our farmers. The Commission remains in close contact with the Member States and is evaluating the situation on the ground,” ​said commissioner for agriculture, Phil Hogan.

“As always, we stand ready to assist farmers affected by drought. That is why we have decided to implement higher advance payments and derogations from certain greening rules to make it easier to produce animal feed.” 

GettyImages-969893114 (2)
EU is offering increased flexibility for farmers in drought ©GettyImages/K_Thalhofer

Insecticide under fire

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has recommended Member States ban of the use pesticide chlorphyrifos​.

Chlorphyrifos is most commonly found in fruit and vegetables, and in particular, citrus fruits.

As the insecticide’s EU license approaches expiration, the agency said the chemical does not meet the criteria for renewal. Chlorphyrifos is currently undergoing scientific assessment by EFSA.

When the European Commission asked EFSA to provide an initial assessment of the available human health outcomes, the agency responded: “EFSA has identified problems with possible genotoxic effects as well as neurological effects during development, supported by epidemiological data indicating effects on children.

“This means that no safe exposure level – or toxicological reference value – can be set for the substance.”

A number of advocacy organisations have spoken out in favour of the ban.

Campaign manager at SumOfUs, Nabil Berbour, for example, said: “This toxic pesticide is harmful to children’s brain development and should have been banned a long time ago in Europe as revealed by a series of investigative pieces in the European press…

“It’s time for EU governments to put people’s health before the pesticide industry’s profits”

Since the insecticide entered the market in 2005, eight EU countries have banned products containing chlorphyrifos.

Pesticide chlorphyrifos has come under fire ©GettyImages/hedgehog94

EU geographical indications database adopts spirits

The EU geographical indications (GI) database, e​Ambrosia, now includes spirit drinks.

The GI status aims to promote a product’s unique characteristics and defend the traditional expertise of its producers.

e​Ambrosia was launched in April of this year to give easy, public information regarding all GI products. The site provides information regarding their status (applied, published or registered), their product specification, and a direct link to the legal basis when they are officially protected.

EU GIs legally protect more than 3,400 names of products. Currently, the database houses GI wines and spirits, and by the end of 2019, all EU GI agri-food products will also be included.

The EU GI register now includes spirit drinks ©GettyImages/MaximFesenko

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