Letter: No cover-up in Europe over BSE

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The Independent Online
No cover-up in Europe

over BSE

Sir: As far as the actions on BSE of the European Commission are concerned, Andrew Puddephatt (article, 15 November) appears to have relied on gossip in the French and Belgian tabloid press; had he followed the proceedings of the European Parliament's Committee of Inquiry into BSE he would surely not have regurgitated the nonsense about the Commission trying to cover up BSE.

The quote from a letter written by Guy Legras, Director-General for Agriculture, is taken out of context; the complete correspondence shows that Mr Legras was pointing out that the matter under consideration (the use of offals in baby food) had already been addressed in a precautionary way but that he was willing to go further if necessary. This is the opposite of the false impression which the selective quote is intended to give.

The assertion that the Standing Veterinary Committee (composed of representatives of the state veterinary services of all member states) had, in 1990, argued that it was "necessary to minimise the BSE affair by using disinformation" is particularly ridiculous. It was not the committee which was supposed to have decided this, but a member of the commission staff who was alleged to have suggested it. Given the different views about BSE held by the 12 member states, it is surely a little difficult, even for the most determined conspiracy theorist, to imagine that they would all have followed such a policy.

It is also clear, from the most cursory glance at the policy followed by the commission, that there was no attempt to cover anything up or to "disinform". Only a month after this meeting of the committee, the commission hosted a major conference on BSE, with the participation of experts from around the world, and published the proceedings.

Perhaps western democracy isn't in such a bad way after all.