Doc. 10713

5 October 2005

Europe and bird flu - preventive health measures

Opinion1

Committee on the Environment, Agriculture and Local and Regional Affairs

Rapporteur: Mr Jaroslav Lobkowicz, Czech Republic, Group of the European People’s Party

1.        The Committee on the Environment, Agriculture and Local and Regional Affairs welcomes the Assembly's decision to hold a debate under the urgent procedure on such a worrying subject. It supports the report of the Social, Health and Family Affairs Committee and indeed supports any action capable of preventing the outbreak of a bird flu pandemic which might well have widespread tragic consequences.

2.        The FAO (United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization) takes the view that the fight against bird flu needs to become a national priority and that, in every country concerned, the veterinary services and civil authorities must have available to them the necessary means to impose quarantine requirements and other anti-bird flu measures. In practice, all Council of Europe member states should reinforce their veterinary warning services so that any locations where outbreaks of the disease occur can be detected at a very early stage and measures taken immediately, such as destruction and targeted vaccination of animals in the high-risk areas.

3.        It is particularly important for additional financial resources to be rapidly allocated to the fight against bird flu in animals in order to prevent a human pandemic.

4.        One of the main problems to overcome in the ongoing process of detecting possible outbreaks is that of small domestic flocks. While it is relatively easy regularly to monitor large poultry farms, it is definitely much more difficult to do the same for small flocks. This is why public awareness campaigns should be launched as rapidly as possible so as to inform farmers and breeders of the risks and of strategies for combating this scourge. The role of local authorities is vital in such awareness-raising campaigns, as is that of trade unions and agricultural associations.

5.        As recommended by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), it is particularly for those countries which lie on migratory bird routes to step up their health monitoring of poultry farms and of birds for the immediate risk of a pandemic is clearly highest in these countries and regions.

6.        According to the AFSSA (French Agency for Food Safety), there is a "low" immediate risk of free-range chickens being contaminated by migratory birds; the risk may be deemed "moderate for free-range duck farms". The Agency recommends tightening up monitoring by carrying out additional studies, particularly "of a broader range of migratory bird species, including the ducks already studied to some extent" and "also taking account of spring migration back from Africa" in 2006. The studies should be "extended to all free-range poultry production facilities (especially wildfowl)".

7.        The AFSSA also recommends "an evaluation of direct or indirect contact risks between free-range poultry and wild birds, as part of the study of specific free-range farms, so as better to assess the exposure risk of domestic poultry". Particular attention should be given to enclosed farms using water from areas where migratory birds land for cleaning purposes and/or as a source of drinking water for their poultry.

8.       Were the threat of exposure of domestic farms to be confirmed in Europe, the vaccination of domestic poultry should be carried out very rapidly. The warning criteria to trigger such a vaccination process need to be precisely defined. Where the risk of introduction through migration from the East is concerned, for instance, the warning criterion could be detection of the highly pathogenic H5N1 virus in the wildlife or domestic animals of East-European countries.

9.        While emphasising the quality and clarity of the draft recommendation tabled by the Social, Health and Family Affairs Committee, the Committee on the Environment, Agriculture and Local and Regional Affairs proposes the following amendments thereto:

Amendment 1: After sub-paragraph 12.3.1, insert a new sub-paragraph reading: "take action to provide consumers with transparent information on the real dangers linked to eating the poultry available on their domestic markets;"

Amendment 2: After sub-paragraph 12.3.2, insert a new sub-paragraph reading: "allocate additional financial resources rapidly to the prevention and combating of bird flu, in order to prevent the outbreak of a human pandemic;"

Amendment 3: Again after sub-paragraph 12.3.2, insert a second new sub-paragraph reading: "as a matter of great urgency, start public awareness campaigns to inform farmers and breeders of the risks and of the strategies for combating this scourge;".

Amendment 4: at the end of sub-paragraph 12.3.4, insert the words “including research into possible health additives to commercial foodstuffs”.

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Reporting committee: Social, Health and Family Affairs Committee

Committee for opinion: Committee on the Environment, Agriculture and Local and Regional Affairs

Reference to committee: Referred for urgent debate, Reference No 3137 of 3 October 2005

Opinion approved by the Committee on 5 October 2005

Secretariat of the Committee: Mr Sixto, Mr Torcatoriu, Mrs Lasen-Diaz


1 See Doc. 10707, tabled by the Social, Health and Family Affairs Committee.