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John Stauber on Continuing Cover Up of Mad Cow Crisis in USA

Posted 1/6/05

Dear Organic Consumers,

Below is a USA Today article that you might have missed.

I understand that many public interest advocates and U.S. Beef producers are
fighting to stop the importation of Canadian animals and products. However,
we must not mislead the press and public into thinking that the US has
better regulations or is proven to have less of a problem than Canada.
The idea that we have tested 80 million cattle, for instance, as this
USA Today article implies in his quote below, is ludicrous. The US testing
system is pathetic, inadequate and secretive. We should be demanding that
the USDA testing be opened to independent review, be massively expanded, and
that information on all suspect animals including where they are from be
made public and open to examination by independent scientists. Right now
there is one word that best describes testing in the US: cover-up.
We need to fight for the same standards of testing and animal feeding
that are working in the UK, Europe and Japan. Anything else won¹t work
anyway.

And, we need to fight as both consumers and producers for the right of
US companies to test and to market products labeled as coming from animals
free of BSE.

The industry and government PR/lobby campaign to manage public
perceptions via the media and to keep the public believing that mad cow is
not a problem in the US is succeeding, and is the main reason why we aren¹t
making progress.

We need to constantly and loudly point out the failure of the US
regulatory system, not mislead the public about false successes.
In my opinion, BSE is spread at some level throughout North America.
Mad cow has been amplifying and spreading in North America for a decade.
Allowing private testing and establishing the sort of government testing
regimes that are working in other countries (UK, EU, Japan) would find the
extent of the problem. The continued weaning of calves on cattle blood and
fat, the continued feeding of cattle with blood, meat, bonemeal and fat from
pigs, these are the issues we should be highlighting and addressing.

John Stauber (Policy Board Member, Organic Consumers Association)

--
John Stauber, Executive Director, Center for Media and Democracy
520 University Avenue #227, Madison, WI 53703
Phone(608)260-9713 Fax260-9714 http://www.prwatch.org/
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Co-Author of:
Banana Republicans <http://www.bananarepublicans.org>
Weapons of Mass Deception <http://www.prwatch.org/books/wmd.html>
Trust Us, We're Experts <http://www.prwatch.org/books/experts.html>
Mad Cow USA <http://www.prwatch.org/books/madcow.html>
Toxic Sludge Is Good For You <http://www.prwatch.org/books/tsigfy.html>
-----------------------------------------------

Posted 1/3/2005 10:10 PM

Mad cow case won't stall border reopening
By Elizabeth Weise, USA TODAY
A day after Canada announced the discovery of a third Canadian-born cow with
mad cow disease, U.S. officials said Monday they were moving forward with
plans to reopen the border to Canadian beef.

It was closed in 2003 when the first infected Canadian animal was found.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture plans to reopen the border in March to
live Canadian cattle younger than 30 months old, based on new World
Organization for Animal Health guidelines, said USDA's Ron DeHaven.

Some U.S. consumer groups and cattle producers say reopening the border is
risky and dangerous.

"The Canadians have had three native-born cows with mad cow disease in a
population of about 13 million (cattle) when we have had zero in a
population of about 80 million," says Peter Lurie of Public Citizen, a
consumer group. "The purpose of barriers in public health is to prevent the
migration of disease from high risk to low risk areas. That's why we oppose
opening the border."

The only U.S. case of mad cow, found in Washington state in December 2003,
involved a cow born in Canada.

The Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America, a
cattle producers group, said on its Web site that the USDA is making the USA
"a dumping ground for products that do not meet minimal international
standards."

But USDA press secretary Alisa Harrison said the decision to close the U.S.
border in 2003 was based on "out-of-date" regulations that "didn't reflect
current scientific information."

"We've said all along that in retrospect we probably didn't need to cut them
off, but because our regulations said that, we had to," says Harrison. The
agency has "spent the last year and a half doing a risk assessment," she
says.

Canadian officials confirmed Sunday that they had found a 10-year-old dairy
cow from Alberta infected with the disease as part of the country's routine
surveillance. The announcement came 20 months after Canada's first case of
the deadly brain-wasting disease was discovered. A previous case in the
1990s was in a British-born animal.

Known to scientists as bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE, the disease
is spread by eating feed containing infected tissue. It can be passed along
to humans who eat infected meat.

The Canadian cow was born before 1997, when the U.S. and Canada banned
cattle feed made partly from the ground-up remnants of other cattle.
Canadian officials say the cow in question did not enter the human or animal
food supply.

The 2005 U.S. response is significantly different from 2003, when USDA moved
to close the U.S. border to imports of cattle from Canada within 24 hours of
getting word of the existence of an infected animal.

The plan to recognize Canada as the first "minimal risk region" was posted
to the Federal Register on Wednesday.

The guidelines say a country may be considered minimal risk if it has had
fewer than two cases of mad cow per million cattle older than 24 months
during the previous four years. "They could detect up to 11 cases of BSE in
this population and still be considered a minimal-risk country," DeHaven
said .

Mark Dopp of the American Meat Institute said the U.S. and Canada are near
mirror images of each other, both with state-of-the-art meat inspection and
animal disease prevention systems.

On Thursday the meat industry group filed a lawsuit against USDA charging
that a ban on importing older cattle is "arbitrary and capricious," saying
that cattle of any age should be allowed.

"Calling Canadian beef unsafe is like calling your twin sister ugly," Dopp
said. "A positive BSE test in an 8-year-old animal that never entered the
food or feed supply does not change that basic fact."