Franz Fischler, the EU agriculture commissioner, said on Monday that issues such as food safety may have to be incorporated into a future World Trade Organisation accord. EU officials said Brussels has already indicated that they plan to bring up non-trade concerns, which include the ‘sustained development of rural areas’ and animal welfare, in any future negotiations.

“The BSE [bovine spongiform encephalopathy] crisis has strengthened the EU’s position that agriculture is more than just an industry – and has to be treated accordingly in the WTO,” Mr Fischler said. “European agriculture is also about environment, consumers and food safety.”

Critics claim an emphasis on non-trade concerns will continue protection for Europe’s heavily subsidised farmers.