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Mr. Pickthall: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will set a date for the lifting of the ban on over-thirty-month cattle entering the food chain where they are subject to full traceability. 
The ban on over-thirty-month cattle entering the food chain is one of a number of BSE controls to be reviewed by the Food Standards Agency (FSA). This was announced by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister at the agriculture summit on 30 March. The FSA has been asked to consider the controls to ensure that they adequately protect the consumer, and their proportionality to the assessed risk. The FSA will submit a published report to UK Health and Agriculture Ministers by the end of October or as soon as possible afterwards taking account of the report of the BSE Inquiry. Ministers will then consider whether there should be any change in the ban on over-thirty-month cattle entering the food chain in the light of the FSA's report.
Mrs. Fiona Jones: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what assessment he has made of the risks from the importation of the Inverdale Gene to the UK, with particular reference to its possible role in causing infertility 
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Ms Quin: No formal assessment has been made. The hazard of infertility associated with the Inverdale gene is well understood. It is for the sheep breeding industry to assess whether the benefits of introducing the gene into UK breeding flocks through the importation of semen or animals outweigh the risks of infertility.
Mr. Llwyd: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what representations he has received on the question of modulation in relation to livestock compensatory allowances; and if he will make a statement. 
Ms Quin: The only livestock compensatory allowances paid in the UK are paid under the Hill Livestock Compensatory Allowance Schemes. These are to be replaced by new schemes under the EC Rural Development Regulation. As such they would not be subject to modulation and I have received no representations on the issue.
Mr. Paul Marsden: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on the effects on sheep farming of (a) the Groundwater Directive, (b) abattoir closures and (c) the costs of the proposed identification scheme. 
Ms Quin: The information is as follows: (a) Under the Groundwater Regulations 1998, which implement the Groundwater Directive, sheep farmers wishing to dispose of any listed substance (including sheep dip containing such substances) to land will normally require a groundwater authorisation from the Environment Agency. Under the agriculture strategy package announced recently it is proposed to restrict charges to a single application fee (currently £92) for the first four-year period of an authorisation, rather than for farmers to have also to pay an annual charge. This will result in an estimated saving for sheep farmers of £428 at 1999 prices in respect of the annual charge.
(b) None. There remains considerable over-capacity in the mainstream sheep-slaughtering sector and as a result there is unlikely to be any measurable effect of abattoir closures on the majority of producers.
(c) We estimate that the initial cost of tagging all sheep in Great Britain will be a maximum of £12 million; in subsequent years this falls to £6 million. For around 80 per cent. of sheep holdings in Great Britain the cost of tags for the entire flock will be less than £200 in the first year.
Sir Richard Body: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food which member states of the European Union have introduced legislation to give effect to the Live Transport Directive 95/29/EC. 
Mr. Morley: Information made available by the European Commission, whose responsibility it is to ensure that EU legislation is implemented, indicates that all member states have implemented Council directive 95/29/EC amending directive 91/628/EC on the protection of animals during transport.
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Ms Quin: The Ministry supports non-food crops through its Agri-Industrial Materials Branch disseminating information, organising events and supporting research and development, although no specific activity relating to lavender is currently taking place.
Ms Quin: A number of comparative studies have been funded by the Ministry. A desk study was completed in 1998 which compared the effects on biodiversity of conventional, organic and integrated farming systems. This summarised the results of previous field-based research, and concluded that organic regimes showed an overall benefit for biodiversity at the farm level. A new field-based project started in 1999 to determine to what extent any biodiversity differences between organic and conventional farms are caused by differences in non-crop habitats.
Other recent research includes projects to assess the impact of conventional agriculture on farmland bird populations, the effects of pesticides on non-target species (including indirect effects on birds), the causes of changes on botanical diversity on farmland, and the causes of changes in brown hare populations. The Ministry is also co-funding the Countryside Survey 2000 project which focuses on an assessment of the extent of changes in botanical diversity on farmland.
|Amount (000 tonnes)|
|Skimmed Milk Powder||157|
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Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how many landowners in England and Wales have land holdings in excess of (a) 25,000 acres, (b) 20,000 acres, (c) 15,000 acres and (d) 10,000 acres. 
Dr. Lynne Jones: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what assessment he has made of recent studies on maternal transmission (a) of the BSE infective agent in cattle and (b) of related infections in other mammalian species. 
Ms Quin: MAFF have funded a large-scale experiment to assess whether embryos collected from cows in the late stages of BSE infection and then transplanted into TSE-free recipient cows from New Zealand, go on to develop BSE later in life. Offspring will be observed for seven years for the development of BSE. The study is due to end next year but so far none of the offspring have shown any signs of BSE. This provides experimental evidence to indicate that BSE is not transmitted to embryos by the maternal route.
Similar studies have been performed in sheep infected with scrapie but results have been difficult to interpret because of the complex genetic factors that influence scrapie susceptibility in sheep. Epidemiological work is ongoing to investigate the natural routes of transmission of scrapie, however, it is too early to make an assessment of the results obtained so far.
Ms Quin: My right hon. Friend the Minister and I regularly meet colleagues from the other member states and the Commission to discuss agricultural legislation. Most recently I attended the Agriculture Council on 17 April to discuss a number of issues including Beef Labelling. It is the responsibility of the Commission to ensure that member states meet their obligations to administer EU legislation properly but that does not necessarily in all cases require complete uniformity as there is scope to apply the principle of subsidiarity where appropriate.
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