Speculation is rife that the measures put in place by the European Commission on Wednesday (29 November) to limit the spread of BSE are about to prompt a large-scale trade war across the Atlantic.

A EU ban on the use of meat and bone meal in animal feed will mean that farmers use a soya substitute to replace the nutrition provided by meat and, when international curbs on soya production come down in mid-2002 according to the Blair House agreement, an ensuing trade dispute is now widely expected.

The EU farms commissioner, Franz Fischler, argued that the results of a meat and bonemeal prohibition have been over-dramatised: “It should be possible to mobilise the additional quantities of soya or other meals needed on the market. Further measures to make this production more attractive could be explored.”

Another Commission official explained that trade restrictions will become irrelevant if the subsidies paid for oil seeds (and soya) are made the same as those for cereals from mid-2002.

The US is tipped to challenge the EU through the WTO however, if subsidised production is increased from 5m hectares.