One of the criticisms of MAFF (and the USDA) in the past has been that it's been in the pocket of producers, the agrichemical industry and the food industry. But back then of course producers represented a significant voting lobby in some constituencies.

Whether we like it or not I think it's clear that the majority of the US and UK population would rank 'cheap food' higher than animal welfare or the prosperity of local producers - ie. the evidence is that they vote with their wallets (or should that be pocket books for our American friends?).

Few western politicians in our so called representative democracies would advocate policies that would be unpopular with the majority of voters.

Since livestock producers are now a very tiny minority of the population - even in rural areas - it appears that they are no longer seen by our politicians as a vote that needs to be 'cultivated' or pandered to.

On the otherhand, the multinational biogenetics industry seems still to carry clout - hence Tony Blair's recent 'coming out' in defence of Science and in particular in defence of GM? He's also concerned by repeated threats from major multinational pharmaceutical companies (an area/market that UK companies once dominated) that they'll pull their research facilities out of the UK in the face of continuing and growing opposition to genetic engineering, animal experimentation and animal testing. His concren/worry of course is purely grounded in economic (rather than moral or even scientific) issues - ie. jobs, taxes and influence in the global market.