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New York Times BSE Fallacies-Part II PDF Print E-mail
Written by Steve Dittmer   
Friday, 02 September 2005
AFF Sentinel Vol.2, #43

Philosophy, Lack of Economic Understanding Same for LAG and Times

Last time we examined some of the factual errors in the New York Times BSE editorial, including MBM, Chicken Little, er, chick litter, as well as infection and dosage for both cattle and humans. This issue concludes our look at the major errors.

The Liberal Activist Groups and R-CALF (LAG*) have pounced on a couple isolated studies that found BSE (bovine) cells in unusual places in hamsters and mice in which BSE infectious material was artificially introduced. There are several obvious problems here. For one, in cattle, no one has ever found BSE cells in saliva or blood. That is part of our knowledge store of where BSE infectious material has been found - or not. For another, cells from one species introduced into another species do not always behave in that foreign host like they would in the normal species or environment. For another, findings from sensitive, hypochondriac hamsters and lab mice often do not transfer to humans.

As often happens, the Times assumed that the Europeans are smarter than us and that's the reason they test more cattle for BSE than we do. Never mind that animal health monitoring is a totally separate issue having nothing to do with human food safety. The Times hasn't figured that one out at all - or chooses to encourage that misunderstanding as a part of their fear mongering campaign. One would have thought the urbane Times editors would have dined in Paris or Geneva or somewhere and discovered what they use for beef over there -- unless they only order the snails or seafood. Culled dairy cows and draft animals and older Continental beef breeds are the bulk of their beef supply. They do not have a fed cattle industry. So most of their slaughter cattle supply is over 30 months old and needs to be tested.

Politically, the British were deceived for many months by their government regarding the existence of BSE. Britain had a much higher infection rate, and the EU a lesser but still higher rate. The greens and those who consider genetic modification witchcraft and 50 cattle a huge, unconscionable operation have a lot more political power and get more media attention in the EU. They have also had FMD to contend with.

All of which makes it a bit more understandable why the EU's testing rates are higher than ours. That's not to say that the science indicates they should be testing at the high rates they do. But they do it for other reasons.

It is logical to test only the higher risk animals because we have a very low prevalence of BSE in North America, it is a disease that manifests itself in obvious outward behavior in its infectious stage and it is infectious only in older animals. Since only a small percentage of animals could fit the possibly infected profile, of course only a small percentage of cattle slaughter would be tested. Our profile is different than Europe's.

Perhaps most disturbing of all is that the New York Times has not even a rudimentary understanding of how the free market works. They declare the USDA "hamstrung" by its mission to simultaneously promote the beef industry and protect the consumer. Both the Times and the consumer activist groups that supplied the information, along with R-CALF and its legal exaggerations, are too short sighted to see there is no conflict of interest. Any business in a free market system must serve and protect their customer. Otherwise, they put themselves out of business. Safe guarding the beef industry's customers is our first order of business, even before improving the eating quality and convenience of the product. But the LAG - and obviously the New York Times - don't even understand those basic economic principles.

*Fringe activist groups like Public Citizen (Ralph Nader), Consumer's Union, Consumer Federation of America (Carol Tucker Foreman), Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM), Western Organization of Resource Councils (WORC), Greenpeace, Global Resource Council for the Environment (GRACE) and others opposing mainstream, free market capitalist agriculture.

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Last Updated ( Saturday, 24 June 2006 )
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