The European Union (EU) Agricultural Council voted on Thursdayto extend its moratorium on commercial use of bovine somatotropin(BST) until Dec. 31, 1999.

Although the council agreed to allow limited use of the growthhormone by farmers in member states for "testing purposes," neitherthe animals nor the milk can be marketed within the EU or exported.A milk quota system is in effect in the EU until the year 2000.

According to Monsanto Co. spokeswoman Lisa Watson, the EUcouncil voted to modify the moratorium so that farmers could "gainpractical experience" with the use of BST. St. Louis-based Monsantohas marketed BST under the trade name POSILAC in the U.S. sinceFebruary 1994 and received approval for the product from the EUCommittee for Veterinary Medicinal Products (CVMP) in 1993.

Watson said that the exact limits on BST use will be determined byeach EU member state individually. "We view this very positively,"said Watson. "Up until now, the EU has not allowed any use of theproduct. This is a step in the right direction."

However, the EU council called for further collection of data on howBST affects the health of cows. Monsanto has committed to theCVMP that it will conduct "pharmacovigilance" studies in the EUsimilar to those it is currently conducting in the U.S. under FDAguidance.

The Pure Food Campaign, which has called for an internationalboycott of genetically engineered foods, issued a statementapplauding the EU's decision to continue to ban the sale and exportof milk, dairy and beef products made using BST. "This decision isdevastating to Monsanto," said Pure Food spokesman RonnieCummins. _ Lisa Piercey

(c) 1997 American Health Consultants. All rights reserved.