The Russian Duma on Friday rejected a proposal to completely ban all imports of meat and related products coming from the European Union.
The lower house threw out a proposal brought by ultra-nationalist Alexei Mitrofanov -- with support by communists and agrarian party members -- when only 181 members voted for the ban, short of the 226 vote majority.
Russian Agriculture Minister Alexei Gordeev told representatives, "The situation is under control and I don't think it's serious enough to ban selling all European meat."
"Besides, such a decision would be seen by the international community as proof of Russian inability to take control of the situation," he explained.
Mitrofanov claimed the move was necessary due to the numerous reported cases of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) -- or mad cow disease -- in the EU.
News of a suspected case of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) -- the brain-wasting human version of BSE -- in Russia emerged at the beginning of December, leading to concern over the illness which Russia until now seems to have escaped.
A 29-year-old man died from vCJD, which many believe can be passed from cattle to humans.
"EU countries export to Russia a large part of their meat produce which doesn't have a domestic market and whose quality is not a cause for their concern" the proposal stated.
Although for the time being the proposal for a Europe-wide ban looks like it has failed to find support, imports to Russia of beef are still disallowed from England, Portugal, Switzerland and certain parts of France and Ireland -- MOSCOW (AFP)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)