Farming Life/CEA Congress: European Food Authority to Be on Stream by End of 2002

Article excerpt

ADDRESSING the core theme of the conference, `Farming in a competitive food chain', EU Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner, David Byrne, told CEA delegates that the succession of reform packages, begun under Ray MacSharry and Franz Fischler, had radically changed the Common Agricultural Policy. And he was convinced that these changes have been for the better.

"It was simply not tenable to continue with the support mechanisms of the past. Not because of external factors, although these were clearly an influence,'' he said.

"But, because Europe's citizens could not tolerate for ever systems which encouraged production to the exclusion of other priorities. A system which saw the vast bulk of the CAP budget devoted to supporting beef mountains and milk lakes was always living on borrowed time.''

Mr Byrne added that agriculture was no longer seen only as a means of food production. Instead, it is seen as fundamental to other key societal goals such as food safety and quality, animal welfare, environmental protection, sustainability, rural development and the preservation of the landscape.

"The CAP has been re-oriented to reflect this changed priority,'' he stressed "The bulk of the CAP budget - almost 90 per cent - was once spent on production supports. When the current series of changes are fully complete this figure will instead be spent on direct payments to farmers and on rural development measures.''

He added: "These changes should radically change the public perception of farmers and of farming in general. The past support mechanisms did huge damage to the image of your sector. And I might add, to the image of Europe and the European institutions.''

The Commissioner pointed out that a key expectation among all consumer groups was that of food safety. …