The European Commission, on the advice of the Scientific Steering Committee on BSE, or mad cow disease, related issues, has issued a report, placing the Czech Republic, along with eight other countries including Poland, Hungary and Slovakia into "Category III" - countries likely to present a BSE risk, or countries with a low level of confirmed BSE risk. This is because the Czech Republic has imported significant amounts of live cattle and meat-and-bone-meal from EU countries where the presence of BSE has since been confirmed. This has come as a further blow to the Czech agricultural sector, which has recently suffered greatly from decreasing meat consumption. Radio Prague spoke to the Managing Director of the South Moravian Breeding Service Organisation and supervisory board member of the Czech Agrarian Chamber, Frantisek Zobal, and asked him for his reaction to the European Commission report:
"We have no case of BSE in our cattle or sheep and I think that our health situation is better than the European Union thinks. This decision isn't right because our situation is not the same as in the rest of Europe. We need to export meat now. When the Russians decided that the European Union could not export its meat to Russia, it was good for us to try to export our meat to this country. The problem is the same in health, politics and business. Now our problem is not to export to European Union states but to the third states."
The European Union has not banned imports of Czech meat, but requires that all Czech meat or meat products exported to EU countries must first have specific risk materials, such as the spinal cord or the brain, removed. But Czech farmers fear that the Commission report may cause other countries to cease importing Czech beef altogether. Mr. Zobal once more:
"The problem is that now the consumption of meat was, in small steps, getting higher. But now, in our radio, television and news, the decision of the European Union Committee will again be discussed. The people will be discussing the consumption of meat and our problem with the agricultural economy will be very big again."
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