Written Answers. - Genetically Engineered Hormones.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

357 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food his views on the desirability of introducing the genetically engineered hormone bovine somatotropin to Irish dairy herds; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1531/99]

Trevor Sargent

Question:

358 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if his attention has been drawn to a recent report (details supplied) suggesting a link between the use of genetically engineered bovine somatotropin and the increase in mastitis in dairy herds; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1532/99]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 357 and 358 together.

Under EU legislation, the use of recombinant bovine somatotropin, rBST, in dairy cows is currently banned in all member states, except for the purposes of trials designed to provide scientific data on the substance, until 31 December 1999. When the ban was last extended, the Council also instructed the European Commission to entrust a working party of independent scientists with the task of assessing the effects of using rBST. As of now, the Commission has not come forward with the conclusions of such assessment, which, incidentally, was to pay particular attention to the incidence of mastitis, nor has it as yet made any specific proposals as to the position of rBST after the end of this year. It should also be mentioned that a recent judgment of the Court of First Instance of the European Court of Justice found against the European Commission regarding its decision not to implement a 1994 finding of the relevant scientific committee, which had found in favour of the safety of the produce in the context of EU pharmaceutical legislation.

I am aware of the animal welfare-related reservations about the product which have been referred to by the Deputy. I shall take full account of such animal welfare concerns and the most up to date scientific views on the safety of the product, including from the group already referred to, in discussions at EU level on the question of the status of this substance after the end of this year.