Five-year wait for new animal, plant health and food supply chain legislation

Legislation on animal, plant health and food supply chains was considered in the Oireachtas in the Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and Marine this afternoon. It was also revealed the legislation in question will take up to five years to complete.

All the Agriculture Department officials were quick to emphasise the complex nature of the legislation, which is attempting to consolidate up to 70 regulations into four. Department officials noted there was a huge workload and a large spectrum of opinion right across the EU. The difficulty of this task was conceded by chairman of the committee Andrew Doyle TD who said due to its complexity “every day of the five years might be needed”.

Some of the legislation discussed today included animal health requirements.  A department official briefed the committee members on the make-up of the requirements. The legislation is a consolidation of the numerous regulations currently in place into one main legislative instrument for EU Animal Health. Speaking about the legislation the official said the principal being followed is “evolution not revolution”.

Another element of the legislation discussed today was in relation to official controls along the food chain. Some committee members were concerned that standards being applied to imports were not as stringent as those applied to food production within the EU. A department official responded to these questions saying there is European “rules for both live animal and animal product imports”.  He ensured committee members that countries importing into the EU had to pass numerous checks along the supply chain to be eligible. The committee were also told that Commission officials carried out inspections of third world countries to ensure compliance.

A hot topic for many of the committee was the issue of farm inspections and the impact of any new legislation on this. A department official told committee members that the legislation although in its infancy does not “envisage any extra measures” at farm level and the present situation is likely to “continue as provided for currently”.

The proposed legislation is available here:

• COM (2013) 260, which relates to animal health requirements;
• COM (2013) 267, which relates to protective measures against pests of plants;
• COM (2013) 262, which relates to the production and making available on the market of plant reproductive material, and
• COM (2013) 265, which relates to official controls along the food chain

By Ciaran Moran