Euro News Monthly November 2010

Alyn with Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Ciolos showing him Scotland's top Agriculture paper, the Scottish Farmer

Well, it appears our dear friend winter is back with a vengeance, but it's still very much business as usual on my end!

This month, the European Commissioner for Agriculture, Dacian Cioloş (pictured) presented the Commission's proposals for the shape of a future Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) to members of the European Parliament's Agriculture Committee. I commended Scotland's Brian Pack for his ability to foresee and match the position of the Commission in his blueprint for reform of Scottish Agriculture. I never thought that Brian Pack had the gift of second sight but I think we shall call him 'Mystic Brian' from now on! The publication from the Commission very closely mirrors the Pack Report, and while both remain work in progress as we gradually piece together a final position on a future CAP, I am glad to see that Scotland's views are well-represented so far. In other news, I spoke at the 7th International Conference on the EU, Turkey and the Kurds. I called for the EU to take a more active role in facilitating the rights of the Kurdish people. The conference brought together speakers from across Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Collectively, we sought to obtain a clear vision for future democratic initiatives within Turkey. A major part of this was seeking to address the problems faced by the large Kurdish population within Turkey.

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More Evidence Needed on Cloned Food

SNP Member of the European Parliament's Agriculture Committee Alyn Smith called for further research into novel foods before any consideration of allowing meat or milk from cloned animals into the human food chain.

Smith's comments come in the wake of statements by the Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes which said that it believed that food from these sources was unlikely to present any risk and that there was no substantial difference between meat and milk from cloned animals and produce from conventional livestock. These findings confirm Smith's original view that there is no risk to human health from cloned food.

However, while this finding is welcome, Smith remains in favour of a precautionary ban on cloned produce entering the human food chain because of practical considerations over the potentially significant and rapid impact that such techniques could have on the animal gene pool, as well as animal welfare considerations, given that cloning remains a very imprecise science.

Smith said:

"Sometimes, as in all things, science moves faster than human morality or sentiment can keep up with, and we must recognise that there is a lot of concern over cloning, with good reason. While there is presently no evidence of a threat to humans, I think that until we have more thoroughly investigated the impact of this science in a calm and rational manner, we should maintain a ban on its inclusion in the food chain."

Disappointment Over Anti-Counterfeiting Resolution

Smith hailed the passage of a European Parliament resolution on the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) as a step in the right direction but expressed disappointment over its impact on basic freedoms and existing EU legislation.

The resolution, approved with 331 votes in favour, 294 against, and 11 abstentions, reiterates that the Lisbon Treaty extended Parliament's powers, and points out that its consent is needed for ACTA to enter into force in the EU. The aim of the ACTA agreement, between the EU, the US, Australia, Canada, Japan, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and Switzerland, is to strengthen the enforcement of intellectual property rights and to help to combat counterfeiting and piracy of goods such as clothing of luxury brands, music, and films.

MEPs, who now have the power to veto international agreements concluded by the EU, today stated that this agreement will not solve the complex and multi-dimensional problem of counterfeiting but it should still be considered a step in the right direction. MEPs nonetheless want reassurance from the Commission that ACTA's implementation will have no impact on fundamental rights and data protection, on the ongoing EU efforts to harmonise intellectual property rights enforcement measures, or on e-commerce.

Alyn Smith said: "This is a complicated issue with a number of promising pros but also with a few disappointing cons. I was pleased to hear that neither personal searches nor the so-called "three strikes" procedure will be introduced by this agreement meaning that ordinary people will not be prosecuted for backing up their DVDs. It is the 21st Century - broadband use is increasing - and with the UN aiming to have half the world connected to the internet by 2015 it is welcome that ACTA membership is not exclusive and that additional developing and emerging countries may join.

"Disappointingly, ACTA ignores what it is designed to achieve. ACTA needs to see improvement in the area of copyright and patent enforcement and it ignores the concerns that have been consistently voiced by a number of experts and MEPs that ACTA could impair civil liberties and the access to information and medicines. While the vote was a positive step in the right direction, it also highlighted that a few loopholes need to be ironed out before I will be satisfied with the finished package."

Smith Welcomes Stricter Information Rules on Prescription Medicines

Smith has welcomed a vote in the European Parliament on better access to high-quality information on prescription medicines. He hailed the final package which, compared to the original legislative proposal, was better-oriented towards the needs of patients, rather than just towards the interests of the pharmaceutical industry.

As a result of the vote, pharmaceutical firms would have to provide official documents e.g. summary of product characteristics, package leaflet, assessment report, on their websites, or in printed form upon request, and could only provide other information based on quality criteria and subject to approval by the competent authorities or the European Medicines Agency. This means providing objective information on a drug's characteristics and the treated disease or condition, while preventing unsolicited information or disguised advertising.

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