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Mad cow situation continues to heat up

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HAY MAKER

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Mad cow situation continues to heat up
Posted: Wednesday, Feb 16, 2005 - 04:52:40 pm PST

By Eric Baker
Leader Staff

A mad cow dispute is pitting meat processors and Canadians on one side against American ranchers on the other, with both sides pointing fingers and hoping the legal system can help them.

Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns ruled last week that the USDA will delay the importation of meat from Canada that is 30 months or older because that group has not been sufficiently studied. The move is a blow to Canada's ranchers, who hope to improve the image of their cattle so they can get a higher live weight price. And to America's meat producers, who argue the closed Canadian border has created a shortage of cattle.

Meanwhile, American ranchers are rejoicing at the small victory, in the hopes it will lead to a much larger one. Their trade group, R-CALF (Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund), has sued the USDA in hopes of blocking their ruling that the border be opened for cattle between Canada and the U.S. on March 7. They cite a litany of health concerns, but they might be just as effective with their lobbying in Washington, D.C.

The ruling has to pass a Senate hearing, and R-CALF has had considerable success garnering political support in states with large ranching populations. Both of Montana's senators and its governor support R-CALF's position, and lobbying will play a large role in the ruling's political lifespan.



Public safety has been cited as the main concern, after four Canadian cows were discovered with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) over the past year and a half. None have been found in the U.S. Both sides agree that Canada and the U.S. use roughly the same health standards and checks, so the American ranchers and politicians want to know what is causing the disparity.

This is where the sides diverge, each claiming the other is using wacky science.

"USDA created this age limit (30 months) and didn't specify why it's important," said Janet Riley, senior vice president of public affairs for the American Meat Institute, a trade group representing meat processors and packers. "The Office of International Epizootics, the world's leading animal health organization, has ruled that Canada's current system is more than adequate to justify trade between the countries."

According to the Montana Cattlemen's Association, 30 months is the international standard for safeguard against BSE. But the MCA also says another internationally accepted standard -- that BSE cannot be found in muscle meat -- is not valid.

"In Switzerland, they injected BSE in rats, and the prion was found in the digestive system and muscle," said Bill Bullard with R-CALF. "One has to abandon the state of the evidence but you also have to use common sense."

The Montana Farmer's Union feels the same way.

"I've heard of cases where they've seen the prions in muscle cuts," said Sandy Courtnage, communications director for the union. "When people say they want a science-based decision, you can't do something and have everyone accept it. It comes down to risk assessment."

R-CALF points to a study they completed where the authors concluded that there would be a 99.9 percent chance the U.S. would import a calf with BSE within the first year if the border was reopened.

However, Tony Cox and his Denver consulting firm are statisticians, so critics of the R-CALF study claim it wasn't scientifically based.

"There's no scientific basis for R-CALF's lawsuit," said Riley. "Calling Canadian beef unsafe is like calling your twin sister ugly."

At stake are millions of dollars in trade, and both sides are claiming to have the most reliable data.

"The public has reason to have some degree of caution about these claims," said Mark Hanson, director of the Practical Ethics Center at the University of Montana. "Scientific studies about issues like risk are not foolproof, because they can be easily influenced by interpretation."

Add to that concern the fact that both sides are paying their scientists to conduct their research, and you have an ethical quagmire.

"The fact that universities go to great lengths to disclose funding sources and follow specific guidelines means these areas are fraught with bias," said Hanson.
 
A

Anonymous

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HAY MAKER said:
"I've heard of cases where they've seen the prions in muscle cuts," said Sandy Courtnage, communications director for the union. "When people say they want a science-based decision, you can't do something and have everyone accept it. It comes down to risk assessment."

Thats the reason we need Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling on all beef. Let each individual consumer do their own risk assessment and leave the choice to them...........
 

Sandhusker

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Amen, Oldtimer. The meat is labeled when it hits our borders, keep those dang labels on!
 

Kato

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According to the Montana Cattlemen's Association, 30 months is the international standard for safeguard against BSE. But the MCA also says another internationally accepted standard -- that BSE cannot be found in muscle meat -- is not valid.

"In Switzerland, they injected BSE in rats, and the prion was found in the digestive system and muscle," said Bill Bullard with R-CALF. "One has to abandon the state of the evidence but you also have to use common sense."

The Montana Farmer's Union feels the same way.

"I've heard of cases where they've seen the prions in muscle cuts," said Sandy Courtnage, communications director for the union. "When people say they want a science-based decision, you can't do something and have everyone accept it. It comes down to risk assessment."

R-CALF points to a study they completed where the authors concluded that there would be a 99.9 percent chance the U.S. would import a calf with BSE within the first year if the border was reopened.

What a load of .....

Bright move, placing current science in doubt by bringing up the prions in muscle cuts. That pretty much guarantees a market crash if/when an American case shows up. For Bullard to say you have to use common sense is the worst kind of joke. He wouldn't know common sense if it hit him in the head.

As for the study, who did it? PETA? :roll:

For that matter, who's in charge of PR for R-Calf? PETA? :dunce:
 
A

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Kato said:
According to the Montana Cattlemen's Association, 30 months is the international standard for safeguard against BSE. But the MCA also says another internationally accepted standard -- that BSE cannot be found in muscle meat -- is not valid.

"In Switzerland, they injected BSE in rats, and the prion was found in the digestive system and muscle," said Bill Bullard with R-CALF. "One has to abandon the state of the evidence but you also have to use common sense."

The Montana Farmer's Union feels the same way.

"I've heard of cases where they've seen the prions in muscle cuts," said Sandy Courtnage, communications director for the union. "When people say they want a science-based decision, you can't do something and have everyone accept it. It comes down to risk assessment."

R-CALF points to a study they completed where the authors concluded that there would be a 99.9 percent chance the U.S. would import a calf with BSE within the first year if the border was reopened.

What a load of .....

Bright move, placing current science in doubt by bringing up the prions in muscle cuts. That pretty much guarantees a market crash if/when an American case shows up. For Bullard to say you have to use common sense is the worst kind of joke. He wouldn't know common sense if it hit him in the head.

As for the study, who did it? PETA? :roll:

For that matter, who's in charge of PR for R-Calf? PETA? :dunce:

Kato - I wish it were not true but several studies have found prions in muscle meat and many places outside the central nervous system. I don't know about the level of infectivity. May be so low as to be innocuous. The more sensitive tests may open up more cans of worms. Don't know about the R-Calf study and they are not a scientific institution and if they funded research, one would have to ask the motivations. However, the Swiss study is one of the top TSE research groups -- Aguzzi is the lead guy. He and Collinge in UK seem to be the leading Europeans. Over here it is Prusiner and company out West primarily. NIH Rocky Mountain Labs and the National Surveillance Center (Case Western) have a lot of researchers.
 

Murgen

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"In Switzerland, they injected BSE in rats, and the prion was found in the digestive system and muscle," said Bill Bullard with R-CALF. "One has to abandon the state of the evidence but you also have to use common sense."

One also has to be careful staking the future of the industry on studies that haven't been evaluated or repeated by others. There are numerous scientific studies which are later discounted because of inconsistencies etc.

So, it dangerous to bring this to the consumer, before it has been validated! Once you have put it out there, it will either be belived or the publisher will never again be trusted, if proven wrong in the future.
 

Cattleman

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99.9% chance of importing a calf with BSE in hte next year?? If that is the case, between 2000 and 2002, when the U.S. imported around 5 million head that means they foresure have BSE in their herd! So where are they? The risk is still the same for the US herd either way, open or closed border!! If all of your safety measures are in place, with the ruminant to ruminant feed ban, then there is no concern for your herd anyway. of getting infected
 

sw

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Meanwhile, American ranchers are rejoicing at the small victory, in the hopes it will lead to a much larger one. Their trade group, R-CALF (Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund), has sued the USDA in hopes of blocking their ruling that the border be opened for cattle between Canada and the U.S. on March 7. They cite a litany of health concerns, but they might be just as effective with their lobbying in Washington, D.C.

I am so tired of the press saying that R-CALF is a Montana group of ranchers and that they are MY trade group. Don't think so. This has gotten so bad that I had a guy from Colorado call me up and ask me why all of the Montanans are member of R-CALF. Now he knows the truth.
 

Murgen

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They must be counting all 2% of them, they speak for all ranchers, things that make you go hmmmmm?
 

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