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Minister rapped for comments on BSE testing
The Asahi Shimbun

Farm minister Yoshinobu Shimamura has come under heavy fire from opposition and ruling party politicians for saying Japan's blanket testing of cattle for mad cow disease would be considered ``nonsense'' anywhere else.

Shimamura was forced Thursday to effectively retract the remark, which he made during a meeting of the Lower House Budget Committee last week, but it has done little to quell the firestorm.

Main opposition party Minshuto (Democratic Party of Japan) is calling on the minister to resign.

Muneaki Samejima, who serves as agriculture minister in Minshuto's shadow Cabinet, accuses Shimamura of attempting to exercise political pressure on the government's Food Safety Commission.

He says Shimamura's remarks, which included urging the Cabinet Office commission to speed up its review of domestic safety measures for BSE, could prejudice the members' findings.

The completion of the commission's review is a precondition for the lifting of the government ban on U.S. beef imports, and the policy to test slaughtered cattle of all ages is the centerpiece of the measures.

Shimamura agreed, albeit implicitly, to withdraw the remark on Thursday, after being grilled by Minshuto lawmaker Tetsuro Fukuyama during a meeting of the Upper House Budget Committee.

At a meeting of the Lower House Budget Committee on Wednesday, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi brushed aside a Minshuto lawmaker's demand to dismiss Shimamura.

But others within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party are not nearly as supportive.

At a subcommittee meeting of the party's Research Commission on Comprehensive Agricultural Administration on Thursday, Chairman Hosei Norota criticized Shimamura, saying his statements would create unwanted confusion among the public.

Shimamura's comments also ruffled the feathers of consumer activists.

Consumer Japan (Shodanren), a nationwide network of 43 consumer groups, on Monday submitted a letter of protest to the ministry of agriculture, forestry and fisheries, demanding that Shimamura retract his remark and offer an apology.(IHT/Asahi: March 5,2005)
Farm minister Yoshinobu Shimamura has come under heavy fire from opposition and ruling party politicians for saying Japan's blanket testing of cattle for mad cow disease would be considered ``nonsense'' anywhere else.Same thing happened in England when a official forced his daughter to eat a BSE burger saying back in 96 or later ,BSE won't hurt anyone.So, The Japanese consumers are saying ,I want TESTED BEEF from any nation thats had BSE inside their broders or DON"T ship it.

Livestock body offers to mediate US-Japan beef talks
07 Mar 2005 11:23:26 GMT

Source: Reuters

TOKYO, March 7 (Reuters) - The head of a livestock safety body said on Monday his group could use scientific means to help settle a beef trade dispute between Japan and the United States and was ready to mediate talks if both countries asked.

The offer came from the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), a Paris-based international body that addresses safety issues related to livestock, including cases of mad cow and bird flu diseases.

Japan has imposed an import ban on American beef since the United States discovered its first mad cow case in Washington state in December 2003.

In October, the two countries agreed to resume shipments of beef from animals 20 months old or younger, which are considered at low risk for the disease.

But the process has stalled as the two sides debate how to accurately tell the age of beef. Japan's youngest case of the brain-wasting disease, formally called bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), was in an animal aged 21 months.

"The OIE will be open to help if Japan and the United States agree ... The OIE could help with the use of our scientists, but it will be a scientific mediation, not a political mediation, not an economical mediation," Director General Bernard Vallat told Reuters in an interview.

The group has 167 member countries including Japan and United States.

Vallat said it was difficult to comment on the progress of the talks between the two countries.

"I'm not sure whether the discussions are based on OIE standards because of other problems than science ... there are social, political and economical problems, so it's difficult to give an opinion in this context," Vallat said.

Vallat is in Japan to attend the first regional steering committee meeting of the Global Framework for the Progressive Control of Transboundary Animal Diseases.

He is also scheduled to attend at a public meeting on Thursday, which is sponsored by Japan's government-affiliated Food Safety Commission to explain the standards of the OIE related to mad cow disease.

"I will explain our standards and how they are decided and what is the basis and will give details ... but it is not my objective to convince consumers or convince politicians."

The Food Safety Commission, the body responsible for discussing policy changes, is in the process of revising current domestic policy on the testing of cattle for BSE from a blanket test on all cattle to a system that excludes animals aged 20 months or below.

Political pressure is increasing in the United States as the U.S. beef industry presses for a quick end to the ban.

Japan also recently confirmed its first case of the human variant of mad cow disease, when a man died in December from variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) after eating infected beef. Officials believe he contracted the disease in Britain.

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