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Public and parliamentary scrutiny needed over BSE

13 April 2001

Public and parliamentary scrutiny needed over response to BSE

Green Party co-leader Sue Kedgley today said scrutiny from both parliament and the public was needed to assess the effectiveness of the New Zealand response to BSE, now that it is likely to become a global epidemic.

Ms Kedgley said an official inquiry into BSE in England had concluded that the British epidemic occurred, in part, because officials consistently under-estimated and played down the risk of BSE, introduced inadequate or misconceived measures to halt the spread of BSE, falsely reassured the public and refused to admit the scale or implications of BSE.

"We need to be sure that we don't make the same mistakes here," Ms Kedgley said.

In New Zealand, to date, there has been no public scrutiny of our response to the potentially global BSE epidemic. A small group of experts on a BSE Expert Science Panel are providing advice to our ministers, but there is no public or parliamentary input or scrutiny.

Ms Kedgley said she was alarmed that the expert committee had unanimously recommended that New Zealand lift its ban on imports of beef and beef products from England last year, when 1900 new confirmed cases of BSE were discovered in England.

"On the basis of that advice how can we have confidence in this panel of experts?" Ms Kedgley said.

"I don't know where these officials receive their advice from, or whether they call upon independent expert advice from overseas. I do know that some of the answers I have received to parliamentary questions have been patronising, evasive and inadequate.

"I have a nagging worry about New Zealand getting it wrong on this - as British officials did - and under-estimate the risk of BSE to New Zealand," she said.

"Rather than relying on the judgement of a handful of officials who advise our Ministers, I believe what we must have in New Zealand is public and parliamentary scrutiny of our response to the BSE epidemic."


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