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WI Conference Backs NFU Calls For Tougher Import Controls

The NFU described the threat of foreign diseases like foot and mouth breaching Britain's borders again as just "a click away" on the computer.

NFU Food Standards Chairman Michael Seals was speaking at yesterday's annual conference of the Women's Institute in Brighton.

He said that while freer travel and trade was to be welcomed, it carried risk with it. Further routes had been opened up by mail order and the Internet.

Michael Seals told the conference: "The Internet allows us to window shop around the world.

"In navigating a handful of sites myself I was just one click away from buying meat products from anywhere on the globe, whilst sitting at home in Derbyshire."

The foot and mouth virus and Classical Swine Fever, just six months earlier, have both been imported into the country in recent years with disastrous effects.

Further huge losses continue to be suffered by British agriculture - and the countryside - at the hands of imported diseases like rhizomania, which affects sugar beet, and Dutch elm disease.

Michael Seals added: "Imported disease is a real and perhaps an increasing threat.

"Alongside improvements in global bio-security and world-wide efforts to control diseases, effective import controls and surveillance have a crucial role to play.

"We must recognise that unless our front line - our first line of defence - is working properly and effectively, then more problems will follow."

The NFU has been campaigning for more than a year to get improved border controls and for greater co-ordination of enforcement resources. The Government published its action plan in March, but more needs to be done, says the NFU. The WI has adopted the campaign and voted in 99.7% in favour of a resolution
calling for stricter import controls at yesterday's annual conference.

Michael told the conference: "The Government says it is serious about bio-security and border controls and reform is long overdue.

"Failure to act will only expose us unnecessarily to diseases that will once again decimate our animals, decimate our trees and, one day, even our


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