World experts agree on cattle breeding rules

Reuters News
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Posted: May 24, 2012 2:39 PM
World experts agree on cattle breeding rules

PARIS (Reuters) - Members of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) agreed on Wednesday on cattle breeding rules, its first ever deal on livestock production.

The deal, approved by OIE's 178 members apart from South Africa, includes measures such as ensuring cattle beefs' health, breeding environment, genetic selection, Director General Bernard Vallat told reporters at the 80th General Assembly.

However, a draft of the deal, to be formally adopted on Friday, showed that terms remained vague and data such as minimum/maximum temperature levels, the hours of light animals needed or the soil quality were either removed or not included.

They also left aside additives such as hormones or antibiotics, a question which would have been too divisive.

"The norms would be so complex that it would complicate discussions," Vallat said.

The European Union in 1988 banned all imports of beef from cattle treated with growth hormones, a move that prompted U.S. and Canadian sanctions of $125 million a year on European products from Roquefort cheese to truffles and mustard.

Vallat noted that the rules would be harder to implement in intensive breeding, also called feedlot breeding, widespread in the United States and Europe, where animals are confined, have little or no access to pasture and are fed in trough.

The Paris-based OIE, recognized as a reference organization by the World Trade Organization, had tried to seal a deal on livestock production rules last year, on chickens, but divergences were too wide on issues such as the number of animals per square meter and food quality.

OIE countries commit to apply the rules but the body cannot force the implementation nor sanction the laggards.

"This is what they agreed upon, but we are not the United Nations, we have no Blue Helmets," Vallat said.

(Reporting by Sybille de La Hamaide, editing by William Hardy)