Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, who has previously voiced his opposition to the importation of fresh meat on the grounds of growth hormone use abroad, has expressed an added fear of the protozoan Toxoplasma gondii, which causes the disease Toxoplasmosis.
The Prime Minister was interviewed on the radio show Bítið yesterday and discussed among other things Iceland’s opportunities for expansion in the fields of farming and agriculture, citing a growing demand for food in the world, as well as the popularity of high-quality products, which he said should be a hallmark of Icelandic production.
“It is very important to protect the wholesomeness of Icelandic products, and that we do not use additives, hormones, steroids or other such things to produce Icelandic meat,” Sigmundur said. When asked what his government was currently doing to enable these developments, the Prime Minister stated that a task force was currently working on ways to boost and promote the industry.
According to him, high tolls and restrictions on imported meat are imperative to protect Iceland’s exclusive position. “Iceland is far from alone when it comes to importation tolls on meat, it is in fact one of the most difficult things to negotiate when it comes to free trade agreements. It would be a huge error in judgment for us Icelanders to be the first to take down such tolls and bans, while the big states, the European Union, the United States, and others, keep their tolls. Then we are really opening up the possibility that foreign products could be dumped into the Icelandic market, undermining the national market, and we would lose the position we have now, and the opportunities available to us,” Sigmundur Davíð said.
He then shifted the discussion to the risks of foreign bacteria and viruses. “Also, no less important, is that we be free from all sorts of infections that are sadly all too common in many places, and are not only harmful to animals but can also be very harmful to people,” said Sigmundur Davíð, adding: “there is for example a protozoan that causes people’s behavior to change. If people for instance eat meat abroad that is not properly cooked, they risk ingesting this protozoan and it can lead to changes in behavioral patterns, and people have even wondered if this could be changing the behavior of whole nations. It sounds like science fiction.”
While not denying that the parasite exists in Iceland, he claimed that it was uncommon here, in Norway as well as in Great Britain.
Noted Czech biologist Jaroslav Flegr has done extensive research on the Toxoplasma gondii’s effect on human behavior, which The Atlantic reported on in 2012. Magnús Karl Magnússon, professor of pharma- and toxicology at the University of Iceland said to visir.is that such research is at best controversial, and in any case the protozoan already exists in Iceland, even if its rates are unusually low. “At the very least it does not indicate that we should fear changes in the affairs of the agricultural industry,” Magnús said.