The European Commission adopted a proposal to ban the use and marketing of Bovine Somatotrophin (BST) in the European Union as from 1 January 2000 on animal health and welfare grounds. This proposal follows the opinion of the Scientific Committee on Animal Health and Animal Welfare. BST is a hormone which increases milk production when injected into dairy cows. A moratorium on BST was already introduced in 1990. The ban has no impact on imports of dairy or meat products from third countries. The Scientific Committee on Animal Health and Animal Welfare (SCAWAH) adopted on 10 March 1999 its report on Animal Welfare Aspects of the Use of Bovine Somatotrophin and stated that BST increases the risk of clinical mastitis as well as the duration of treatment of mastitis, that it increases the incidence of foot and leg disorders and that it can affect adversely reproduction as well as induce severe reactions at the injection site.
2. One option the European Union is expected to consider would be to replace the outright ban with a list distinguishing tolerable hormones and dangerous ones.
3. Lifting or diluting the EU's ban would lead to consumer backlash and damage of the European red meat industry.
4. It is not simply a question of science. Even if the likely dangers are small, consumers will still not buy the product. They are not just motivated by fear, but also by principles. These animal rearing practices are considered unnatural.
2. In 1995 the United Nations food agency approved use of growth-promoting hormones in meat, embarrassing the European Union which has banned such drugs and imports of hormone-enhanced meat.
3. The EU's ban is controversial, because a reasonable consensus exists among scientists that some of the forbidden products are safe for human consumption. Even EU's own scientific studies, commissioned before the ban was imposed in 1988, found that three "natural hormones" - oestradiol beta 17, progesterone and testosterone - presented no threat to consumers if properly used. The ban has been particularly opposed by pharmaceutical companies, on the grounds that the EU's list includes drugs which, before the ban, had passed the licensing procedures of several European countries and are used in the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Latin America and Africa.
4. Possible policy alternatives include maintaining the ban in the EU but accepting imports of meat treated with scientifically approved hormones. Or the ban could be eased to allow the use of scientifically approved hormones, accompanied by a stronger EU-wide testing regime.