Ceisteanna — Questions (Resumed).

Priority Questions.

Cross-Compliance Regime.

Michael Creed

Ceist:

95 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when she will launch the new cross-compliance regime. [21954/07]

The position is that the cross-compliance regime has been in place since the introduction of the single payment scheme in 2005. Cross-compliance involves two key elements, namely, a requirement for farmers to comply with 18 statutory management requirements, SMRs, set down in EU legislation on the environment, food safety, animal health and welfare and plant health, and a requirement to maintain the farm in good agricultural and environmental condition.

The cross-compliance obligations were phased in over a three-year period. Eight cross-compliance SMRs came into force in 2005 together with the good agricultural and environmental condition requirements. A further seven SMRs governing food and animal and plant health came on stream from 1 January 2006. The final three SMRs governing animal welfare were introduced with effect from 1 January 2007.

A Commission report on the application of cross-compliance was presented to the April Agriculture Council and Council conclusions were adopted in June. The following issues were covered in the conclusions, tolerance for minor non-compliance, introduction of a de minimis rule for penalties, harmonisation of control rates, advance notice of inspections, reviewing the ten month land availability rule, making better use of the results of existing controls in the context of risk analysis for cross-compliance and phasing in of cross-compliance for new member states.

The Commission has presented certain proposals to the Council of Ministers for amendment of the main EU regulation governing cross-compliance to give effect to these issues. Discussions on these proposals will continue over the coming months and any changes adopted will not come into effect until 2008.

In the course of the discussion on the Commission's cross-compliance report, the Commission has given certain clarification on the current control requirements and these have been reflected in our inspection arrangements this year. My Department is now finalising procedures for the remaining phase of the 2007 cross-compliance inspections and my officials will meet the farm bodies on this matter very shortly.

My question asking when the new cross-compliance regime would be introduced was quite straightforward, but the reply is anything but straightforward. The Minister can offer no clear guidance to farmers as to when a new regime will be introduced, which flies in the face of commitments given the length and breadth of the country during the general election campaign. Fianna Fáil candidates made a commitment then that the 66-page Department document, which is not an EU document, would be shredded——

The Deputy is behind the times as usual.

——and that the 1,600 questions therein would no longer be the blueprint against which the farmers would be assessed with regard to cross-compliance. I remind the Minister that the experience of farmers on cross-compliance is not a happy one. In 2006, approximately 2,000 farmers were found to be in breach of regulations and, of those, 1,300 paid penalties. When will the Minister live up to the commitments given and put a timeframe on when the new cross-compliance regime will be in place? Will she guarantee here that the Government and the EU Commission will commit to a 14-day notice of inspections?

We are all in favour of a 14-day notice of inspections, but it has not been agreed at EU level.

Who is against it?

The Commission.

The Minister is fighting the issue at every opportunity, including at the last April and June Council meeting, and she specifically included point 14 on the practicality of the advance notice. This was pursued again at the July meeting. She has pursued the issue monthly in her direct contact with Commissioners as well as raising the issue at Council meetings.

The 66-page document mentioned by the Deputy is gone and the application procedure has been simplified.

What are inspectors using?

The document I have in hand is a six-page explanatory document which was sent to every farmer in the country a month ago and all farmers should have it.

What are the criteria with which farmers must comply now? They had some information when we had the 66-page document, but now they are operating in a vacuum. We need the new regime and to know the obligations.

There is a grey area in respect of farmers who are REPS compliant. They may be compliant with the REPS plan, but may be obliged to meet other criteria under the cross-compliance regime. If farmers uphold the regulations on the REPS plan, which is a document approved by the Department and passed by an inspector, surely they will not be required to comply with an additional layer of environmental obligations. Will the Minister of State clarify that the new regime will address that issue?

With regard to REPS and the various schemes in which farmers are involved, it is important that people are aware the sectoral legislation, whether dealing with feeds, foodstuffs or whatever, will always take precedence over cross-compliance. It is important to take note of the basic scheme. The Deputy should obtain a copy of this six-page document — we can give it to him — which has been provided to farmers. The document explains the process to farmers and we hope it will make matters simple for them.

On the issue of penalties, many of them are related to tagging issues which can be resolved in a straightforward manner by farmers.

Food Labelling.

Sean Sherlock

Ceist:

96 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if she will amend legislation to ensure that foodstuffs of foreign origin cannot be labelled as produced in Ireland, processed in Ireland or sourced and produced in Ireland; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21952/07]

Ar dtús báire ba mhaith liom comhbhrón a dhéanamh leis an Teachta Sherlock ar bhás a athair. Laoch uasal amach is amach a bhí ann. Ag an am céanna, déanaim comhghairdeas leis agus leis and Teachta Creed as a gceapacháin nua. Beidh mé ag éisteacht go géar leo.

The Minister for Health and Children has overall responsibility for the general food labelling legislation. Responsibility for enforcement of labelling legislation rests with the Food Safety Authority of Ireland, FSAI, through its service contracts with my Department, the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, the Health Service Executive, local authorities and the National Consumer Agency.

The issue referred to, where a primary product can enter Ireland and be processed in some way, thereby allowing it to be branded as an Irish product, is known as "substantial transformation". This terminology originates in EU legislation governing the EU customs code and, therefore, can only be amended at EU level. I have been concerned that this arrangement could, in certain circumstances, be used to mislead the consumers as to the origin of the raw materials used in certain products. I am not satisfied with the current legal position and the Minister has raised our concerns at EU Council level.

The EU Commission is currently reviewing the whole area of food labelling and in that context the Department contributed to Ireland's submission, which was co-ordinated by the Department of Health and Children. In its submission, Ireland again raised the matter of the unsatisfactory nature of the concept of substantial transformation and the possibility of it being used to disguise the origin of products from the public.

I will continue to press for progress as I believe consumers are entitled to full information and clarity on the origin of food products. The concept of substantial transformation needs to be more clearly defined and I will continue to urge the Commission to address this problem.

I raised this question in the context that Ireland has up to €8.1 billion in food exports on an annual basis. Recently we saw that approximately 1.3 million tonnes of pigmeat are imported from outside the EU into Ireland and then branded and packaged here. My question is based on the fact that Irish pig producers are rapidly going into decline because long-established brands are being marketed in such a way as to give the impression that they use Irish pig meat. The European Union is currently reviewing the conditions and I understand the issue may be only within the competence of the Union. However, the Government has a certain responsibility in the issue. If there is no provision in our law to amend legislation, I call on the Government to ensure that labelling, through marketing and Bord Bia, is done in such a way as to ensure that where a consumer purchases a product perceived to be Irish, a clear label is attached to the product attesting to that fact. This has serious implications for pig producers and I ask the Minister of State to clarify whether the Government is making provisions in that regard.

I agree with the Deputy. His concerns have been strongly expressed by me, the Minister and the Department. The quality assurance mark is one area which we will make every use of to ensure marketing is used to the fullest extent within the legislative constrictions which exist. The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Deputy Coughlan, met the CEO of the FSAI ten days ago and stressed this matter, particularly as it related to pigmeat, but also as it related to sheepmeat and poultry, which are also relevant to the changes needed. I remind the Deputy that all of us, the wider public included, have an opportunity, via the FSAI website, to have our say on how changes need to be made to improve labelling to bring it into line with the beef origin rules, which are far clearer than those for pigmeat, as the Deputy mentioned. The deadline for submissions is Friday fortnight, 19 October. I hope everybody gets involved and we in the Department will do everything to impress on the European Commission the need for clear labelling rules for pigmeat so that the consumer is not misled, because I agree with the Deputy that such a thing is happening.

Is the Minister aware that Galtee Foods in Mitchelstown, a company that has sustained people in the area for many years, recently closed? One of the main reasons is the clear perception among consumers that, though its products were branded as Irish, they were imported and the Galtee brand has diminished in stature as a result. It is a result of a certain degree of Government intransigence on the issue that we now see the demise of a traditional company and the Government needs to do more to ensure the industry, which has sustained many farming families for a long time, is supported.

I am sure the Deputy understands I cannot refer to any particular company by name. However, the Department has been working strenuously to impress on the European Commission the need to fast-track the necessary changes, on which the health and consumer protection directorate of the Commission has sought consultation in its document Labelling: Competitiveness, Consumer Information and Better Regulation for the EU. This issue is the subject of consultation and we need as many people as possible to get involved. I am sure the people the Deputy has met will be strident in their advocacy of improvements as well.

I assure the Deputy that the Department is working with other member states and I will meet the attaché from the German Embassy this afternoon to discuss the matter. Ireland and Germany have been to the fore in pushing the European Commission to improve the labelling regulation and we will continue to do so, hopefully with the Deputy's support.

Beef Industry.

Michael Creed

Ceist:

97 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the measures she proposes to take to secure the viability of the beef sector here. [21955/07]

I welcome Deputy Creed back to the House and wish him well. I also welcome Deputy Sherlock and I am sure we will have a very fruitful, professional relationship.

Beef must be considered as one of the most robust and successful Irish export industries. Indeed, in 2006 the Irish beef industry was worth €1.5 billion in foreign earnings to the Irish economy. Ireland is the biggest export supplier within the EU and the largest net exporter in the northern hemisphere. Irish companies are major suppliers across Europe and now have the best portfolio of retail accounts of any food sector in Ireland. This excellent result, which is in line with stated policy for the sector, has been achieved largely by effective marketing and promotion by the industry and by Bord Bia, together with the delivery of a high quality, competitively-priced product.

For the sector to remain viable and move forward it must, however, continue to respond to the challenges it faces on an ongoing basis in a very competitive environment. To assist the industry in responding to the challenges, the development of non-price strategies is fundamental. There is a recognised need to adapt positively and effectively to evolving market demands and consumer trends. To this end, as the Deputy will be aware, a number of policy initiatives and proposals have been developed and enhanced in recent months.

First, I announced my intention to introduce an animal welfare and recording scheme for suckler herds. The scheme aims to encourage and underpin the adoption of high levels of animal welfare and improve the quality of the national beef herd. As the Deputy is aware it was submitted to the Commission for state aid approval, as required under EU law. Consultations are taking place with the Commission with a view to obtaining approval as soon as possible.

Second, I announced in April a capital investment aid scheme for the beef and sheepmeat sector designed to support capital investment, which is expected to increase scale in primary processing, increase added value in further processing and improve efficiencies to allow Irish companies to compete internationally. This package will, I am confident, ensure the strategic and coherent development of the sector into the future and ultimately position our producers to avail of export opportunities. This complements and underpins the existing quality assurance schemes, and the advances in breed improvement programmes being developed by ICBF.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House.

Furthermore, to publicise the response of the beef industry to an ever-evolving market, Bord Bia is intensifying its efforts to promote beef over the coming months. The aim is to build on the already well established marketing and promotional activities being undertaken by Bord Bia and the industry. An extensive promotional campaign commenced in September involving 30 supermarkets across 13 European countries in 10,000 individual outlets. In addition, Bord Bia is completing a new Irish beef marketing strategy. This follows consultation with industry as how best to use the promotional resources available over the period 2008 to 2013. I have also established a market access group to focus efforts on the reopening of markets for Irish beef and have been in touch with Commissioner Fischer Boel with a view to the adoption of a more strategic approach to the use of export refunds in the beef sector.

I believe that all these measures, combined with our high levels of food safety standards, will contribute to underpinning the viability of the beef sector and best position it to maintain and improve its competitiveness on EU and international markets.

I thank the Minister for her reply and her good wishes. Does the Minister agree that in one fell swoop the initiative she has outlined, which will be recorded in the Official Report, has been undermined by the failure of her Department to support the campaign to ban Brazilian beef from European markets? Her colleague, the Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Deputy Sargent, referred to the FSAI on numerous occasions but I remind the Minister of Dr. Wall's statement on the beef industry at the conference of agricultural journalists, to the effect that Irish beef producers need a level playing pitch. We do not have a level playing pitch with regard to Brazilian imports because they are hormone-treated and come from a country that has foot and mouth disease. As a consequence, the USA does not allow Brazilian imports, nor do the Japanese. Why is it that Irish farmers are obliged to compete against Brazilian imports with their two hands tied behind their backs?

To put money back into farmers' pockets, will the Minister immediately raise the compulsory BSE testing age from 30 months to 42 months? That would put significant amounts of money back into Irish farmers' pockets. Even if it means for once, of necessity, being bad Europeans, will she introduce a national scheme for the labelling of country of origin? It is not good enough that products can come into this country and, as the Minister of State, Deputy Sargent, said, under substantial transformation can fly under a green, white and gold flag. It is not acceptable and I appreciate that the Minister also views it as unacceptable. However, if we are to wait forever for the EU to address the issue, substantial numbers of Irish beef farmers will have gone out of existence. That is the real problem we face because profitability in the industry is the key way of keeping beef farmers on the land and in production.

When I was first appointed as Minister I was the first, and remain the only, person to raise within Council my concerns about the issues of equivalence and equity.

Why did the Minister not support the campaign to stop Brazilian beef?

One must work within the set parameters. If one wished to ban Brazilian beef one could.

I cannot from this side of the House but I would if I was sitting in the Minister's place.

I must work with the defined regulatory authorities.

On a point of order——

There are no points of order during questions.

I am the only person to have said that on the issue of trade, particularly within the WTO, non-trade concerns are absolutely paramount. I have continued to express grave concerns about unfair competition. I have continually raised with Commissioner Kyprianou many concerns expressed by farmers and in the press, which I have forwarded to him for investigation. Following a recent meeting with the Commissioner he agreed there were shortcomings but said that they were not sufficient to close the trade. I impressed upon him the necessity of returning to that.

It is closed to America and to Japan.

He has confirmed that there will be a further FAO, Food and Agriculture Organisation, mission to Brazil within the next number of weeks and that, on the basis of the outcome of that, he may have to take further action. It is important to mention that we have labelling of beef under the FSAI. I have expressed my disappointment that this has not progressed as well as expected.

It is for me to express disappointment. It is for the Minister to do something about it.

I am the Minister who introduced the legislation. I will continue to introduce further legislation. It is a matter for the Food Safety Authority of Ireland to implement the legislation. I have expressed my concern that it is not being done to the standards I have set.

It is important to note that there are a number of market misnomers. On why the Americans do not import from Brazil, that is a matter for the Americans. The Americans have an agreement with the Mexicans. There are serious issues for Ireland with regard to access to the Japanese market.

We have exceeded the time allowed for this question but I will allow Deputy Creed to ask a brief supplementary question.

The Minister's failure to reply on the issue of raising the age of BSE testing speaks for itself. Where is her commitment on the €100 suckler cow grant? The Minister nailed her colours to the mast when she went to the EU Commission and failed to support the IFA campaign to keep Brazilian beef out of Ireland. No amount of weasel words will get away from that. In terms of consumer protection, I remind the Minister——

I would prefer the Deputy to ask a brief question.

In terms of protecting the consumer from substandard products, when hormones were legal here, there was a retention period of 60 days before animals could be slaughtered. The regime in Brazil is 42 days. What are Irish consumers who buy this product exposed to?

Let me tell the Deputy, for his own benefit——

The Minister should tell the House.

It will be of greater benefit to the House than to the Deputy who does not want to listen to me. A document has been circulated regarding the proposal to increase the age of BSE testing from 30 months to 42 months, which I intend to implement. I pursued this vigorously with the Commissioner who hopes this will be available in 2008.

On the issue of the suckler cow grant, the matter goes before the EU College of Commissioners on 23 October. Once that has been signed off by the Commission, we will proceed. I refute the Deputy's assertion that by not supporting the IFA, I have undermined the beef industry in Ireland. That is incorrect. I invested in the beef industry, worked with the industry, and I will continue to raise my concerns with the FAO.

EU Restructuring Fund.

Sean Sherlock

Ceist:

98 Deputy Seán Sherlock asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food her views on the High Court decision of 14 June 2007 which overturned as unlawful the Government’s decision on the way €145.4 million in restructuring aid should be re-allocated following the rationalisation of the European sugar market and the closure of the Mallow sugar factory; if she will introduce a new package; the way same will be structured; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21953/07]

The EU regulation governing the restructuring aid required member states to decide on the percentage of the aid to be reserved for beet growers and machinery contractors. Accordingly, following a wide-ranging consultation process and based on the advice of an independent expert, the Government decided in July 2006 that the percentage of the aid to be reserved for beet growers and machinery contractors should be set at 32.38% which equates to €47.1million. Of this, €40 million was for beet growers and the remainder for machinery contractors. The balance of the aid amounting to €98 million was allocated to Greencore. The High Court ruled, in effect, that these percentages would have to be recalculated. Notice of appeal against the ruling has been served.

Last week, the Council of Agriculture Ministers reached political agreement on an amendment to the restructuring aid regulation, one effect of which will be to increase the allocation to the beet growers from €40 million to €52.8 million. This means that the growers' allocation is now assured, at a higher level, regardless of the outcome of the court case. The allocation to the processor will also increase as a consequence of this amendment but the total allocation for the processor depends on the outcome of the legal proceedings.

I should add that separately growers will receive €123 million over the next seven years under the single payment system and €44 million by way of diversification aid from the restructuring fund.

I preface my question by stating the strong belief within my party that the loss of an industry that sustained many farm families and industrial workers throughout the land for generations was a travesty.

I put it to the Minister that the Indecon report, on which the Government based its recommendations, was incorrect. The Government, therefore, cost taxpayers untold sums of money and put them through the process of going to the High Court which subsequently reversed the decision. It was utterly needless and a waste of taxpayers' money. Will the Minister respond on that issue? The fundamental question is when the restructuring package will be introduced and the growers paid. What level of consultation has there been with growers on the issue? Has there been final and full agreement on the matter?

The Government's decision was challenged by Greencore.

Of which the Minister is a shareholder.

I am not a shareholder. Greencore sought a judicial review of the Government's decision in the High Court. The political agreement was arrived at last week. It will take some time for that agreement to be finalised. The Department met the sugar growers recently and they are happy, from the perspective of farming here, with what has been agreed. We paid €22 million of the restructuring aid last week. It is hoped, once the Commission signs off, which we expect will happen fairly soon, to pay the additional €22 million. The other aspects will take some time to go through the legal process. As soon as we get notification we will be able to pay. The next due date is spring of next year.

The Indecon report is important. I want to find out exactly how much the Indecon report cost the taxpayer, how much it cost to go to the High Court. The issue here concerns the public purse and how moneys are expended on behalf of taxpayers. Can the Minister guarantee that Greencore will not challenge this decision which, although it has been taken at a political level, has yet to go through the board of Greencore? It should be stated that the Minister is a shareholder or has a golden share in that company.

On the issue of expenditure on behalf of taxpayers, the Government decided to get independent expertise. I do not have the costings but Indecon provided the expertise to allow the Government to proceed with the decision it made. That decision was challenged by Greencore. We are now appealing the outcome of that challenge.

On the issue of the amendment to the regulation, both Greencore and the farmers will get an increase in the amount of money being made available. I can only assume that Greencore will not challenge this. The farmers and the contractors were particularly pleased that they now have a ring-fenced amount and that this increased amount of money will be secure. The Deputy's late father was fairly vociferous on this issue for many years. I agree that it is a tragedy that Ireland had to move out of sugar production. However, it was in the knowledge during the negotiations that we would not be able to continue in a viable way in the sugar industry and the best deal that could be achieved was achieved at local level.

Animal Feedstuffs.

Michael Creed

Ceist:

99 Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the way she proposes to resolve the problem for farmers of escalating costs of grain-based feeds. [21956/07]

As the Deputy is aware the Irish feed industry is made up principally of grass-based and grain-based inputs. I fully accept that in the past six months the cost of the grain-based inputs has increased substantially. Irish grain farmers produce approximately 1.7 million tonnes of cereals annually for animal feed. This is augmented by the importation of some 3.1 million tonnes of other feed materials. These imports include protein feed materials such as maize by-products, distillers' dried grains and gluten for ruminant animals. The pig and poultry industry traditionally requires considerable imported consignments of high protein soya and wheat but is now considering importing whole maize because of the price differential with wheat.

There is no doubt that the conditions surrounding the availability and pricing of feed materials have changed dramatically during the past six months. A number of factors have contributed to the rise in feed prices, including the increased demand for feed materials both generally and from the biofuel industry, particularly in the USA and unfavourable weather conditions worldwide which affected many of the major wheat growing regions. The lack of synchronisation between the GM authorisation processes in the US and the EU can also be an issue in certain cases.

Efforts by the feed industry to secure alternative supplies of wheat to compensate for the shortfall caused by weather conditions are hampered by increased demand from the US biofuel industry. While whole maize is considered a suitable substitute for wheat in feed rations, its availability and price has also been affected by the demands of the biofuel industry. In addition, the cost of soya has risen because of consequential increased demand.

The cost of inputs has knock-on effects on the price to be paid by the consumer. I am on record as saying that consumers will have to pay somewhat higher prices for their food products and producers will have to strive further for efficiency gains. However, I believe cereal production in Ireland and the EU will increase significantly in response to the market situation. This should be facilitated by the availability of set-aside land for cultivation in 2008. I hope also that the cereal producing regions will not suffer the weather conditions that pertained this year.

Notwithstanding the effect biofuels are having on the feed industry, the increased use of maize in the manufacture of biofuel should, in theory, result in increased availability of maize by-products for use as ruminant feed.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House.

However, the practicalities of this are hampered by the lack of synchronisation in the GM authorisation processes used in the US and in the EU. This asynchronisation has caused US exporters and EU importers to act with caution in view of the consequences of detecting traces of EU unauthorised GM events in imported consignments.

Is it Government policy, since the arrival of the Green Party in Government and, in particular, the appointment of Deputy Sargent as Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, to obstruct at every given level the approval regime in Europe of GM modified foods? This question arises out of the Department's recent volte-face and abstention on Europe in respect of the approval process on Herculex.

I remind the Minister that this issue has implications right across the agricultural sphere for poultry, pig and animal feeds. There are 7,000 people working in the pig sector, an industry which is worth approximately €0.5 billion. Facts are available to the Minister in respect of the loss to pig producers of approximately €15 per animal. There is evidence of pig producers bringing forward slaughter weights from 105 kgs to 95 kgs and of their not servicing breeding stock because people see no future in this industry.

What faith does the Minister place in the United States Department of Agriculture, USDA, the European Food Safety Authority, EFSA, headed up by Dr. Wall, former head of the Irish Food Safety Authority, IFSA, all of which have given the green light to various GM modified foods? There is a myth surrounding the GM-free issue. Is it not the case that the Irish agriculture sector has been using GM inputs for many years?

Since 1999, the Government has taken a positive but precautionary approach to the GM issue.

Ireland never abstained from a vote on it until June.

Perhaps Deputy Creed would like to answer his own question.

The Green tail is wagging the Government.

The Minister is responding to a Priority Question from Deputy Creed.

The Deputy should listen to the reply.

Please allow the Minister to continue without interruption, please.

Ireland abstained on the vote in respect of Herculex. I recently advised the House and the media of this.

The Minister changed her mind.

The Deputy will note, if he looks at the result, that one way or another our vote was irrelevant at the time.

It delayed the process.

It was irrelevant. I wish to advise the House that it is anticipated that the Commission will sign-off on the issue of Herculex by next week.

(Interruptions).

The Minister, without, interruption, please.

We need to move on from the Herculex issue which has been sorted. I also wish to advise, as this matter relates to grain, that the industry is currently sourcing additional feedstocks in the United States on the basis of an expected decision next week.

On the issue of the giving of a green light by the USDA and EFSA to GM modified foods, I agree a synchronisation problem has arisen. This information is contained in the final sentence of my reply to this question. An issue has arisen in terms of synchronisation with the USDA having moved on considerably more quickly than the EFSA.

Does the Minister have confidence in it?

As a consequence, the synchronisation——

The Minister is obstructing the EFSA's efforts.

That is rubbish.

If Deputy Creed will allow the Minister to conclude, I will call him on a supplementary question.

The Deputy should withdraw that remark as it is factually incorrect. If the Deputy wishes to proceed on questions——

The Minister abstained on this issue.

I had hoped to call Deputy Creed on a supplementary question but the time for Priority Questions has expired.

Deputy Creed is misleading the House.

Perhaps the Deputy does not know for what the EFSA stands.

It is the European Food Safety Authority.

Exactly. It is representative of all member states. I am not a member of the EFSA and I do not interfere in the workings of the EFSA which provides independent advice to the Commission.

The Minister did interfere in the workings of the EFSA.

I did not obstruct the EFSA in any way. I have pursued the issue and last year and the year before sent officials to the United States in an effort to obtain synchronisation between the USDA and EFSA in order to avoid this chasm of having to wait three years for issues to be dealt with.

That concludes the time allocated for Priority Questions. We will now move on to questions nominated as ordinary questions. I remind Members they have one minute to ask supplementaries and the Minister has one minute within which to respond.