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Science Distorted, New Political Strategies PDF Print E-mail
Written by Steve Dittmer   
Tuesday, 02 October 2007
AFF Sentinel Vol.4#32

With all the trouble this Farm Bill promises for the beef industry, more complications may lie ahead.

Washington observers expected USDA to wait to publish its phase two Final Rule regarding the import of over-30-month cattle from Canada until the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals delivered a decision on the under-30-month rule. Now the Ninth has ruled in favor of USDA and the agency has announced the phase two rule. So R-CALF is mulling additional approaches to prevent the rule from being implemented.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals picked up on the difference between USDA's scientific approach and R-CALF's alternative theory. The court quoted USDA's emphasis on the "cumulative effect" of the measures in both countries "as an extremely effective set of interlocking, overlapping and sequential barriers ... . " to introducing BSE in the U.S. The court explained that in evaluating the case for the preliminary injunction, they chose to "evaluate the cumulative effects of the multiple, interlocking safeguards" instead of following a "divide and conquer" strategy. The court added that approach "represents a legal conclusion about the construction of the regulations," and is now the law of the case.

In other words, R-CALF wants BSE to be exterminated in each country - a divide and conquer strategy - before trade is allowed. True to their normal, short-sighted outlook regarding the big picture, they can't - or refuse to - see how the cumulative effect reduces the risk to the negligible.

R-CALF CEO Bill Bullard provided further proof of this myopic view. He told Chuck Jolley in an interview that the industry was in grave danger in importing over- 30-month cows because the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) claimed BSE was 26 times more prevalent in the Canadian herd than the U.S. herd ("Five Minutes with ..." CattleNetwork, 09/22/07). Actually, the numbers Bullard referred to were cases among the high risk animals tested for BSE, not the general cow herd.

We ran the CDC report numbers. The incidence rate in the Canadian-tested high risk animal population (10 out of 160,000) was 0.006 percent. The U.S. rate (2 out of 875,000) was 0.0002 percent. What's the difference between extremely negligible and quite negligible? Bullard reminds us of grade- school classmates who got tripped up on the old arithmetic question, which is greater: 0 X 500 or 0 X 5,000. And yes, the proportion of cattle tested is the same for both countries.

Link to CDC Report ("About BSE"), click here

Bullard didn't mention the graph in the CDC report, showing the pattern typical of BSE incidence in countries worldwide, meaning that 2006 was probably the peak for BSE cases in Canada. And, the CDC's expertise is human disease, not animal disease.

T o see updated OIE BSE worldwide case summary (excluding UK), click here

Also in the CattleNetwork interview, Bullard further charged that USDA has demonstrated a "propensity to favor trade over health and safety concerns ... ." and is "trumping science with its political trade goals." It is incomprehensible to R-CALF that the law holds USDA's job is to facilitate trade whenever goods meet inspection and safety standards, not block trade.

The facts show USDA does not regard safety and trade as a "trade off," to coin a phrase. Safety is an entry prerequisite - the price of doing business - for domestic and foreign beef.

Bullard continues to obscure the science - especially specified risk material removal - and confuse the animal health issues with the human food safety issues in R-CALF's scare tactics.

How much do you trust Bullard's judgment? Here's his bottom-line evaluation of R-CALF's past legal performance in that interview: "pretty good."

Unfortunately, there is another body that regularly ignores science and exhibits less than sound judgment. R-CALF wants to use Congress and its interventionist-minded leadership to stop the rule.

Bullard indicated to CattleNetwork that R-CALF would try to get Congress to overturn the rule. He said Congress would have a 60-day period to review the rule before it could be implemented. In 2005, the Senate passed a Resolution of Disapproval on an earlier BSE rule, but the leadership blocked a House version, he said. He is hoping that with Democratic leadership in place, resolutions could get through both houses.

While the President would almost certainly veto such a resolution, the real danger is such a resolution attached to another bill President Bush wants to sign or the Farm Bill. With the loose cannons in Congress these days willing to listen to radical, protectionist cries, that may be the biggest danger.

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Last Updated ( Wednesday, 10 October 2007 )
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