Agriculture ministry was "stunned" by aflatoxin affair

BELGRADE -- Minister of Agriculture Goran Knežević told MPs on Thursday that he "bears the responsibility for the problems in this sector".

(Tanjug)
(Tanjug)

He also said that the recent discovery of elevated aflatoxin concentration in milk "stunned his ministry".

"I admit that this is partly my responsibility and that we did not find the time to deal with these things and the whole matter (aflatoxin in milk) has caught us unawares," Knežević said during a parliament session at which MPs posed questions to the government about the safety of food in Serbia.

The minister said the food safety system in Serbia is regulated by laws and regulations passed in order to harmonize standards with that of the EU, but that this was done without "enough understanding for reality and their enforceability."

"These rules have brought major changes - the primary responsibility for food quality is on the producers, and the government takes on the role of controller," said Knežević.

He accused three lobbies as "contributing to the whole picture" - importers, who stand to gain enormous profits as a consequence of "the story about toxic corn", GMOs advocates, and "politics" - the desire of some parties "to create problems and endanger villages and farmers".

Trade Minister Rasim Ljajić also addressed the session to say that the financial damage from the aflatoxin crisis has not yet been appraised, but noted the figure could reach between 100 and 125 million euros.

The session was called at the request of the opposition Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), whose leader Čedomir Jovanović said today that the party did not want to reduce the issue of food safety in Serbia to "mindless wars among parties" and called on Knežević to take "concrete measures".