Agribusiness Freedom Foundation  
Home arrow Sentinel e-Newsletter arrow July 2005 arrow R-CALF Puts Everyone On Tightrope Again
Main Menu
About AFF
Latest Op/Ed Release
Sentinel e-Newsletter
Newsletter Signup
Staff Bios
Make A Contribution
Contact Us
R-CALF Puts Everyone On Tightrope Again PDF Print E-mail
Written by Steve Dittmer   
Wednesday, 20 July 2005
AFF Sentinel Vol.2, #33

No New Science, More Scare Tactics, More Distortions, More Risk for the Beef Industry

This edition refers to a court paper filed with the Eighth District Court in Billings regarding R-CALF's lawsuit against USDA.

Because the person filing the declaration is a Nobel Prize winner, Dr. Stanley Prusiner's filing with the District Court in Billings in support of R-CALF is getting some attention. But a reading of his declaration leads one to wonder if a noted laboratory researcher is the right person to be advising public policy makers on animal health regulations, public health policy and trade policy.

And right or wrong, his call for 100 percent testing is cast in a bad light, given his mention of his testing company twice and the detailed explanation of his company's test methods, results and that his tests are "available commercially." Interestingly, a check of the list of APHIS-approved tests shows Prusiner's test has not been licensed by APHIS (PR1).

It is also interesting to notice the pattern of the "name" personalities the Liberal Activist Groups (LAG) have used to bolster their positions. Laurence Tribe, a well-known constitutional lawyer, was chosen to represent the LMA-WORC in the suit against the checkoff. Most likely with either the explicit permission of his clients or their agreement to look the other way, he used the opportunity to espouse his animal "rights" cause and anti- vivisectionist views on the steps of the Supreme Court. Prusiner gets to use his time in the spotlight to do an informational plug for his company and its tests.

All of Prusiner's professional work has been in the lab or as a professor of human neurology and virology. Both positions emphasize the importance of proving hypotheses using scientific data. Yet he appears to make assumptions without providing data to justify them, does not spell out his assumptions or makes assumptions about animal diseases and human diseases that do not jibe with real experiences.

For example, Prusiner said "...there is no reason to believe that BSE prions in cattle behave differently from those in other mammals..." Yet real-world experience has shown all the TSE's behave somewhat differently in different species. In addition, Prusiner himself points out that many researchers believe there is a "species barrier," meaning humans are less susceptible to the BSE prions than cattle. Yet he goes on to say that there is not enough information to say one way or another.

He cites findings of prions in various body locations in lab animals like mice and hamsters, but no incidents of finding prions in the location most germane to this whole case - beef muscle tissue. He completely ignores that subject, suggesting that he cannot contradict existing research -- which has never found BSE prions in beef muscle tissue.

He also attributes some TSE cases to "genetic mutation," without clarifying whether he means genetic DNA mutation between animal generations or whether he means mutations in protein cell replication. No underlying research is cited.

Most ironic is that the discoverer of the organism -- prions -- and someone familiar with the mechanism involved in causing the disease, assigns the blame for "many cases in cattle" to "spontaneous (or sporadic) refolding of a host protein" with no particular trigger, sounding a lot like what non- scientists categorize as, "stuff happens."

Regarding the dosage required to cause infection, Prusiner confusingly refers to the amount as, "very small," "only an approximation" and "unknown." If he claims the amount is unknown, how does he know it is very small? What research does he have to contradict the study published in the British medical journal The Lancet that indicates a lot -- over 3 lbs.-- of infected brain neural tissue, not just tissue with some infectious prions, is required to produce infection (Deslys YES, January, 2005)?

In fact, it would seem that 20 years of experience indicates that either a large dosage and/or certain susceptibilities in animals or humans is necessary for infection to occur at all. The facts that normally only one animal in a whole herd getting the same feed contracts the disease and that only an infinitesimal percentage of the total herd in most countries has been infected would support that view. As for the countries most affected - the UK - a whole combination of events appeared to be required, including human cultural eating habits regarding brains, different slaughter procedures and the heavy use of meat-and-bone meal to substitute for soybean meal, to see higher infection levels.

The bottom line is that science still indicates blanket testing is not necessary and that SRM removal takes away the risk in food safety issues. And it is still critical to understand that they are two different and separate issues. Testing to monitor an animal disease is one issue. The safe processing and consumption of a food product, wherever it was raised or harvested, is another.

But R-CALF continues to prove itself willing to risk consumer confidence in beef, haul in "expert" witnesses to raise questions about beef safety and use whatever scare tactics it can think of to threaten the beef industry's livelihood. They have created a risky and potentially explosive public situation, just to keep out a few percentage points of live and boxed beef supply. Significant damage to regional packers, feeders and ranchers is already permanent. But the more public risk in Billings and Seattle courtrooms is just beginning another dangerous round.

Email your comments to the author


Last Updated ( Saturday, 24 June 2006 )
< Previous
designed by