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Here's ONE Canadian who wants to test!

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Mike

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Government lies are making things worse

WILL VERBOVEN

One of the most contentious issues in the BSE crisis has been the use of BSE testing for marketing purposes. Proponents, mainly free-market advocates, claim that BSE-tested beef would reopen the Japanese market to Canadian beef.

Opponents, mainly governments and the mainline beef industry, state that such testing is unnecessary, unscientific and precedent-setting.

In a fair debate, the market should be allowed to decide the issue. But like so much with the BSE crisis, nothing is fair or rational. When it comes to BSE testing, governments hold all the power, and they haven't been above misleading the public either.

The most blatant disinformation has concerned the costs and logistics of BSE testing. Government agencies, in particular the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Alberta Department of Agriculture, have relentlessly campaigned that high costs and complex logistics make BSE testing for marketing purposes unfeasible under commercial conditions.

Whenever government agencies begin to make proclamations about what does and doesn 't work in the marketplace, red flags should go up. In the case of BSE testing, the presumption of government officials is a classic case of mad bureaucrat disease.

Government politicians and their bureaucrats have stood up time and again and stated that, because BSE tests cost $100 to $300 each and lab results take a week, it is not commercially feasible to test cattle for BSE on a large scale. Well they got that right - if the government's the one doing the testing. But in the real world, where the marketplace rules, such costs are way out of line.

In the major beef producing countries of Europe (excluding the U.K.), millions upon millions of BSE tests have been carried out without bringing the meat packing industry to a standstill. They do this by letting technology and the free market resolve issues of costs and logistics. In Europe, BSE test costs are as low as $20 each, and lab results are ready in six hours. A recently approved test provides results in loo minutes.

With those kinds of costs and logistics, BSE testing for marketing purposes or increased surveillance becomes very feasible. They are able to achieve that in Europe because of two factors: private, non-union laboratories do the testing and they use a high-tech rapid BSE test called the Prionics Check Western. Not only is it fast and economical, it requires fewer lab facilities and it never produces false-positives. In comparison, most government laboratories use either immunohistochemistry or ELISA-type tests that are more costly, much slower and less reliable.

Some government officials have qualified their decision to stick with their chosen tests because they claim they are able to use them for testing other brain-wasting illnesses, or TSEs (transmissible spongiform encephalopathies) like chronic wasting disease and scrapie. That's a bit of a red herring. Many of the popular BSE commercial tests will test for most TSEs, too.

Government officials have also tried claiming that only BSE tests that have been approved in other countries can be used in Canada. That's another dodge. For competitive reasons, all the major test manufacturers have seen to it that their tests are approved for use in Canada, the U.S. and Japan.

It does cause one to ponder why government laboratories in Alberta, Ontario, Quebec and the U.S. persist in using BSE tests that are well below the standards achieved by the test that is the most widely used in Europe. It should be noted that the Prionics BSE test is used by the government labs operated by Agriculture Canada that serve as BSE reference labs. That should tell us something.

From a logistical perspective, packing plants in Europe have had few problems with BSE testing, simply because it does not interfere with the production line. And because lab results are back within six hours, they do not have to hold a day's carcass and offal production in isolation for very long. Private BSE test laboratories can easily keep up with any commercial demand in Europe: labs exist that can process from 1,500 to 5,000 tests per shift. Compare that to our own government's labs, where the goal is a few thousand tests per week.

Governments in North America, by accident or design, have ignored the European experience with BSE testing. That works for them because it allows politicians and bureaucrats to shamelessly use misinformation to discredit BSE testing for marketing purposes just to support a reckless trade policy. The madness continues.

Will Verboven is the editor of Alberta Beef Magazine.


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(With permission from Western Standard, Nov. 8, 2004)
 

whiteface

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That's an awesome article, Mike, thank you for posting it!!!! Let the testing begin!!! At least here in Canada, we have nothing left to lose, let's go! In the States you might have some other issues not yet resolved to test or not test but in Canada, it's time to stand on our own two feet, WE will lead by example and raise, pack, test and sell "Product of Canada" beef. Have a good day all from Canada!
 

Bill

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Good post Mike.

There are lots of Canadians that are in favor of testing OTM. The problem lies with CCA and the provincial orgs that think the US is still going to save the day.

TO CANADIANS........WAKE UP! SMELL THE COFFEE! R-Calf is a group to be depised for the approach they have taken but no Canadian can control what R-Calf, USDA, or NCBA do. The CCA and its affiliate orgs. walked hand in hand to the dance with NCBA but then found out that in fact they were only looking out for themselves in the end. They didn't want to 2step with Canada, they wanted to line dance with USDA in the middle and R-calf on the other end.

The sooner Canada raises the bar and starts testing at least OTM animals the better for CANADA and the worse off the US will be.
 

Mike

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reader (the Second) said:
Great article which I passed on to others. Good comments about the Canadians being led down the primrose path by USDA. My observations have led me to believe that the USDA has been trying to "handle" the BSE issue by temporary bandaids, hired PR, hired academic guns, intimidation and retaliation of those who broke rank, and yes, even deliberate misstatements. They simply thought the issue would go away and that it was a non-issue given our power with either U.S. or foreign consumers. I think there are some straight shooters but I see the USDA "experts" in a group of TSE experts really standing out for denying the dangers.

Looks to me like a lesson should have been learned in the UK and Japan. By treating BSE as an animal health issue MIGHT be a big mistake. I am still steamed over the way SRM's are represented to the public.
 

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