Electronic tagging of cattle now on the cards
Moves to introduce electronic tagging for cattle have gathered pace, with EU sources indicating that a white paper on the issue will be published by the Commission shortly.
While details of the new proposals have yet to be confirmed, the initiative is certain to meet with strong farmer opposition given the increased costs involved for cattle producers and doubts about the benefits that will accrue from its introduction.
The adoption of a similar scheme for sheep this year has been slated by farmer groups, who argue that the electronic tagging (EID) will result in higher costs for flock owners but will not significantly improve traceability.
However, a leading Commission official has accused Irish farmers of playing a "dangerous game" in opposing EID.
Michael Scannell of DG Sanco, the Commission's health and consumer affairs wing, said if Ireland wanted to lay claim to being a "food island" then it could hardly be seen to oppose measures that improved food traceability.
He pointed out that EID was devised in response to the need for greater controls in sheep movements, which was highlighted in the wake of the 2001 foot and mouth outbreak in Britain.
Mr Scannell said no formal opposition to EID was lodged by the Irish Government, which, he claimed, could be introduced at "a relatively low cost".
Meanwhile, the EU's top trade official, David O'Sullivan, has poured cold water on the chances of the WTO Doha Round being completed this year.