Food health scares have eroded consumer confidence in food safety and agriculture, the EU Farm Commissioner Franz Fischler told the European Parliament yesterday, but it is still possible to make policy changes to ensure food quality "to everyone and not only to a few who can afford it."

Fischler added that it is no small task to combine these briefs of safety and competitive price, but "in the long run, only the combination of the different demands of society will pay off."

He maintains that the way forward for European agriculture is to continue pressing for less intensive farming systems, an approach first adopted by governments about ten years ago. Next year, the next review of farm policy is due to take place and Fischler commented that it would be an ideal time to revise the dairy and crop market regimes. Any necessary changes would however have to wait until 2006, when the budgetary restrictions imposed by Agenda 2000 on CAP spending are lifted.

"I do very much hope that the current broad public attention is genuinely more than a media hype lasting as long as television talk-shows can reach their quota with discussions on how everything should be done instantly and radically different," he added.