Select Committee on European Scrutiny Twenty-Fifth and Twenty-Sixth Report



COM(00) 320

Draft Directive amending Council Directive 96/22/EC concerning the
prohibition on the use in stockfeeding of certain substances having a hormonal
or thyrostatic action and of beta-agonists.

COM(01) 131

Amended draft Directive amending Council Directive 96/22/EC concerning the
prohibition on the use in stockfeeding of certain substances having a hormonal
or thyrostatic action and beta-agonists.

Legal base:Article 152(4)(b) EC; co-decision; qualified majority voting
Department:Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Basis of consideration: SEM of 16 April 2002
Previous Committee Report: (a) HC 23-xxix (1999-2000), paragraph 8 (15 November 2000) and HC 28-v (2000-01), paragraph 6 (7 February 2001)
(Both) HC 28-xiii (2000-01), paragraph 10 (2 May 2001)
To be discussed in Council: No date set
Committee's assessment:Politically important
Committee's decision:(Both) Cleared (decision reported on 2 May 2001)


  8.1  Council Directive 96/22/EC[24] regulates the use in stockfeeding within the Community of certain substances having a hormonal or thyrostatic[25] action and beta-agonists,[26] and the main effect of the complex series of provisions described in our predecessors' Report of 15 November 2000 is to ban the use of hormone growth promoters in food-producing animals, and hence in meat, except for therapeutic purposes or zootechnical treatment.[27] That Report set out the background to the Commission's proposal (document (a)) which would, among other things, have banned one such substance, oestradiol 17 (and its derivatives), in food-producing animals, and allowed its use in non-food-producing animals only where there was no alternative treatment.

  8.2  A number of issues arising on this — including a clear difference of view between the relevant Commission committee on the one hand, and the UK's Veterinary Products Committee on the other — were pursued further by our predecessors on 7 February 2001, at the end of which they simply noted the relative weight which the Government had attached to these respective opinions. They also dealt on 7 May 2001 with the need for alternative treatments to be clearly defined before any ban on oestradiol 17 was implemented, following which they cleared the proposal and an amended proposal (document (b)) which the Commission had put forward in the light of the changes proposed by the European Parliament at its first reading on 1 February 2001.

Supplementary Explanatory Memorandum of 16 April 2002

  8.3  In his Supplementary Explanatory Memorandum of 16 April 2002, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Whitty) says the Presidency has recently put forward a compromise, which addresses some of the UK's previous concerns, though it does not resolve the difference in scientific opinion. This would allow the continued use of oestradiol 17 and its derivatives for therapeutic purposes, with maximum residue levels being set, but require alternative products to be found for zootechnical uses. The Minister says that the UK continues to believe that any ban is not supported by the scientific evidence, but that there appears to be a qualified majority for the Presidency compromise. He adds that, to the extent that this partly meets the concerns expressed earlier by the UK, it is to be welcomed, but that the loss of zootechnical uses would pose problems for veterinarians for whom the alternatives are less effective. Ideally, therefore, the UK would prefer any decision to await the outcome of new studies by the Scientific Committee on Veterinary Measures Relating to Public Health (SCVPH), which is expected this summer.

  8.4  The Minister also draws attention to one procedural point. He points out that co-decision is usually used for proposals of this kind, but that the Commission has argued that the length of time this requires could compromise consumer safety. However, removal of co-decision would imply delegating the authority for future amendments to the Commission, and the UK is concerned that this might enable the Commission to push proposals through, even where they are unable to convince a qualified majority in the relevant scientific committee. The UK would therefore continue to oppose such an approach should the Commission pursue the point.


  8.5  We are grateful to the Minister for this further information, from which we note that, although the UK remains opposed to a ban to oestradiol 17, particularly whilst a further scientific evaluation is awaited, the terms of the ban have been narrowed somewhat as compared with the original proposals. Having cleared the latter, we see no reason to depart from that view on the basis of the information supplied in this Supplementary Explanatory Memorandum.

24   OJ No. L 125, 23.5.96, p.3. Back

25   Thyrostatic substances reduce the activity of the thyroid gland, which affects metabolism. A decrease in metabolic rate manifests in a number of ways, including an increase in body weight. Back

26   Beta-agonists give a positive response when combined with a specific receptor site in the body, and can also promote the production of lean meat in treated animals. Back

27   Zootechnical treatment means administering to a farm animal a substance for synchronizing oestrus and preparing donors and recipients for the implantation of embryos. Back

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