International Information Programs
Office of Research Issue Focus Foreign Media Reaction

January 6, 2004

January 6, 2004





**  The temporary ban on U.S. beef imports is an "appropriate measure" that should not translate into "trade friction."


**  The U.S. is urged to "beef up" monitoring to prove that American cattle are "safe for consumption."


**  Canadian and French dailies call for "less hysteria and more science" to tackle the bovine disease.




Supporters of suspending U.S. beef imports say 'human health' trumps trade--   Citing citizen safety as the primary concern in "restricting" beef coming from the world's "main meat exporter," outlets such as Seoul's conservative Chosun Ilbo supported the "appropriate and inevitable steps."  They argued that the U.S. government would implement similar measures if Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) were detected in a foreign cow.  Moreover, they contended that "people's health" should not "develop into a trade issue," and that U.S. beef should not be allowed to reenter the world market until Washington confirms that American beef is "safe from mad cow disease" according to "internationally recognized standards."


'Measures needed to ease concern over safety of beef'--  In order to quell consumer fears, many writers suggested not only that the U.S. "improve its monitoring systems" but also that their own governments employ additional "preventive measures" such as better tracking and investigate potentially infected meat and related products already in circulation.  Mexico's nationalist Universal stressed that both domestic and foreign ranchers should be "vigilant in enforcing the prohibition" of brain, spinal and other nerve tissue from animal feed.  Several blamed the lack of sufficient bovine testing in the U.S. for contributing to the current "panic" and agreed that although "testing every single cow" for BSE would be "prohibitively expensive and probably unnecessary," the U.S. should test more than the requisite 20,500 cattle each year.  One Canadian daily pointed out the benefits of an "enhanced inspection process" and stringent scientific "controls on feeding," saying that "such extra vigilance may ultimately be deemed overkill, but it's what the market demands."


'One sick animal is enough to unleash a crisis'--  Some criticized the world's "absurdly phobic" reaction to the "isolated case" of mad cow disease in Washington State, asserting that the risk of developing the human form of BSE known as Creutzfeldt Jakob disease "remains relatively low."  France's left-of-center Liberation cautioned that the "threat" of mad cow disease would "undoubtedly create more economic than health damage."  Others contemplated the "opportunity for progress beyond the madness," calling for global cooperation to educate the public with accurate information about BSE and to improve overall animal health.


EDITOR:  Sandra Goldberg


EDITOR'S NOTE:  This analysis is based on 36 reports from 14 countries, December 24, 2003 - January 5, 2004.  Editorial excerpts from each country are listed from the most recent date.




BRITAIN:  "The Lesson Of BSE"


The center-left Independent commented (12/28):  "America and its rulers have been shaken by the severity of last week's reaction to its first suspected case of BSE.  Within hours of the announcement, two dozen countries - taking about 90 per cent of U.S. beef exports - shut their markets.  Food company shares slumped; the dollar sank to a record low against the euro and the economic recovery on which President Bush is staking his re-election suddenly looked shaky.  It may have been too much too soon.  The case has yet to be confirmed and even if it is, it may be an isolated one - about 20 countries have had minor outbreaks without suffering an epidemic.  But it is not surprising....  The world rightly has little confidence in the Bush administration's ability, or even desire, to protect Americans' health.  It has been dismantling environmental protection and food safety measures to boost the profits of its business friends.  It has failed to heed warnings that the disease could be brewing in the U.S. - including one from Dr. Stanley Prusiner, who won the Nobel Prize for identifying the cause of BSE - and refused even to test more than 10 per cent of the cattle too sick or disabled to walk into its abattoirs.  It has reacted with the same kind of reassurances that proved so counter-productive in Britain.  If this does become an epidemic, the American consumers may lose confidence in its agricultural authorities not just over BSE, but over GM foods as well, with devastating consequences for the industry....  Other countries are in no mood to give the U.S. the benefit of the doubt, since the Bush administration has repeatedly slapped them in the face.  Whether over steel tariffs, Kyoto or Iraq, the U.S. has taken a positive pride in flouting the wishes of the rest of the world.  If it realises that it does after all need the help of other countries - that not even a superpower can be an island - then some good may yet come from 'the cow that stole Christmas.'"


FRANCE:  "Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy: Keep Cool"


Gerard Dupuy opined in left-of-center Liberation (12/25):  "In jumping across the Atlantic, mad cow disease will undoubtedly create more economic than health damage in the United States, to which will be added a wound of pride.  Because the European episodes of the animal disease had given rise to some hints about the Old Continent's miasmas that its huge and healthy American offshoot would escape by an almost divine decree....  Yet American citizens should not exaggerate the dangers that threaten them.  To be sure, in that big country that fears germs even more than Osama Bin Laden, a single sick cow can trigger many disasters.  Modern societies have developed a sort of mass hypochondria and, in this area as in many others, the Americans are at the forefront.  But they ought to beware.  We know how to count the victims of an epidemic.  It is still much harder to assess the ravages brought on by the panicky overreaction of an incompletely informed and thus unduly alarmed public opinion.   In Europe mad cow also killed some bankrupt farmers, through suicide.  A more sober approach to bovine spongiform encephalopathy [BSE] and its consequences would no doubt have avoided others....  After Christmas, it will be possible to measure the reaction by American consumers.   Innumerable econometrists are already watching over it, calculators in hand.  Americans are lucky to come in second on the new cow plague's agenda.  They will thus be able to benefit from all of the experience that has been racked up by the Europeans, who have had all the initial problems to put up with and ended up developing effective procedures.  If, for once, one were to dare give advice to our finicky allies, it would be too simple: keep cool, man!"


NORWAY:  "Mad Cow Disease In The U.S."


Center Party Nationen held (12/30):  "So far all we can do is cross our fingers and hope for the best. We also hope that the BSE attack in the U.S. in any case will lead to an increased preparedness and control in the world’s largest meat market, and that it strangles all tendencies to nonchalance we have seen from ‘over there’.  If the Americans now get a handle on this, it could have positive consequences for the global fight against BSE particularly and for animal health in general.  If so, something good will have come of this.”


SPAIN:  "The Leap Across The Pond"


The left-of-center Pais commented (12/30):  "The detection in the United States of the first case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy [BSE] or mad cow disease has revived the spectre, on the other side of the Atlantic, of the food crisis that shook the European Union....  The inexperience shown in the response by the Washington administration, which has strived to play down the implications of the discovery, prevents any glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel at this stage.  Although officials from the Agriculture Department are right to urge caution and to recall that, for the time being, this is only one isolated case, it is also true that the review of monitoring procedures begun after the detection of the sick cow has revealed a clearly insufficient inspection system: just 20,500 animals a year are subjected to encephalopathy tests in the U.S., as opposed to 10m in the EU.  It is true that the danger to human health is, in this single case, nonexistent.  The European experience shows that, outside the UK (with some 140 deaths), the much-feared spread of the disease among humans has not occurred.  But amid the facile alarmism that surrounds the mad cow issue, if the crisis in the EU taught one lesson it was that food safety must be based on an honourable and transparent application of the precautionary principle. It would therefore do no harm for the U.S. administration to take the opportunity to improve its monitoring systems and clarify the real scale of encephalopathy among its cattle stock.  Give or take the obvious differences, this rule should not be forgotten in Spain, where - whatever the agriculture minister might say - the number of mad cow disease cases has not 'peaked' but rather, unlike most of our European neighbours, is showing a continuous and worrying rise."




SAUDI ARABIA:  "Mad Cow Disease Or Power Madness?"


Riyadh's conservative Al-Riyadh commented (12/25):  "America does not care whether its partners sustain losses in the billions since the world is its own back yard that compensates it for any financial losses.  However, it does not realize the consequences of the increasing international animosity toward it because of its arrogance of power.  As it needs a quick treatment for mad cow disease, it also needs to put some sense into those running behind the slogan of cleansing the world and opening the window for the U.S. model, which is good for any place or time."




JAPAN:  "U.S. Should Tighten Screening of Cows"


The liberal Asahi editorialized (12/26):  "There is no need for Japan to become overly concerned about 'mad cow disease'.  But to ease public concerns over BSE beef exporters and importers should create new methods to thoroughly check whether cows for consumption are BSE-free.  Retailers also need to fully inform consumers of the safety of beef and other beef products at the sales counter."


"Safety First"


An editorial in the business-oriented Nihon Keizai observed (12/26):  "The discovery by the U.S. of its first suspected case of BSE was an unwelcome surprise Christmas gift for Japan.  But there is no need for Japan, who has already experienced the outbreak of BSE in 2001, to become panicky over the recent case in the U.S.  It is only natural that the GOJ has decided to temporarily ban U.S. beef imports.  The government should take proper measures to maintain full public confidence in the safety of beef already in stock and to prevent meat dealers from creating confusion on the meat market by raising meat prices.  The U.S. is likely to urge Japan to resume beef imports at an early date." 


"Measures Needed To Ease Concern Over Safety Of Beef"                           


The moderate-conservative Yomiuri held (12/25):  "It is essential that the GOJ take prompt and appropriate action over the so-called mad cow disease following the U.S. discovery of its first BSE case in Washington State.  It is also important that the government temporarily ban U.S. beef imports and call for proper measures to ease consumers concern over the safety of beef and other beef products from the U.S.  Japan has asked Canada to screen all cows as a condition for the resumption of Canadian beef imports.  It is necessary to make the same demand of the U.S." 


INDONESIA:  "Mad Cow And Creutzfeldt-Jakob"


Andi Utama commented in the independent Media Indonesia (12/31):  “Food made from meat-bone mixture of BSE-infected cows is proven to transfer BSE disease to cows that consume the food.  Therefore, if a cow is confirmed to contract BSE, it will be burned to block the possibility of using it for food.  If BSE-infected cows were found in one country, the most secure measure to take is to stop the import of meat or food from that country. However, it should be noted that milk of a BSE-infected cow will not be contaminated by BSE agent....  Creutzfeld-Jacob Diseases (CJD) is often known as human beings BSE. More specific, CJD caused by prion is a variant of CJD (vCJD) which is different from classic CJD....  Early symptoms of vCJD is a feeling of anxiety, depression and other mental symptoms....  Therefore, in order to protect their people, it is natural for a government to not import beef from countries where BSE is found.  In reality, every time a BSE case is found, all countries would take measures to not import meat and food products from that country.  Since the case of BSE outbreak in the U.S, many countries have stopped their import of meat and milk from the U.S.  Our government should also take strict stance against BSE case for the sake of its people safety.”


"Mad Cow Disease In The U.S. Creates Widespread Panic"


Leading independent Kompas commented (12/27):  “The finding of mad cow disease early this week in the U.S. has created panic and shock around the world....  In business, the attack of mad cow disease, also known as BSE disease, has caused huge financial losses.  Millions of cows were exterminated.  The effect on its product-related market economic activities is also not little....  The panic finally spread everywhere, not only among breeders and business circles, but also in stock markets.  Those that feel the most panic are consumers.  The news on mad cow disease has caused an uproar among consumers both in the U.S. and throughout the world....  The danger of the disease is one of the biggest threats to human beings, apart from war, hunger, and terrorism attacks....  The scale of the disease spreading seems to go along with the globalization process.  Globalization not only happens in economic activities, but also in diseases and crimes such as terrorism.  The increasing mobilization of human beings due to the development of transportation technology also contributes to the disease spreading to the entire world.”


"Government Reacts Too Slowly To Mad Cow Disease"


The independent Jakarta Media Indonesia held (12/27):  "Mad cow disease had once attacked Britain and Canada.   Now, it has changed, attacking the United States, and as a result since Wednesday, 24 December 2003, the world has ceased to import beef from the superpower....  Dozens of countries which had been importing beef and derivative products from America are now rejecting them.  Countries which have halted the import of U.S. beef include Japan, Mexico, South Korea, China, Hong Kong, Canada, Taiwan, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Russia, Brazil, United Arab Emirates, Peru, Paraguay, and the 15 states of the European Union.  The first three on the list are the largest importers of American beef.  It is clear that mad cow disease has implications, too, for derivative products such as milk and cheese.  Losses due to the bans on beef are estimated at around $40 billion.  It is true that Indonesia's beef requirements are not reliant on America, but on Australia.  But derivative products are in circulation in Indonesia in quite large quantities.  And so we need to take a stance quickly regarding mad cow disease....  In the context of mad cow disease, Indonesia is waiting until Monday, 29 December to announce its official position.   Whereas a public explanation is needed as soon as possible.  Surprisingly, no one has the authority to speak officially about this disease;to give a public explanation.  Strangely, according to the Head of the Agricultural Quarantine Board, Budi Triakoso, the board has as yet taken no action in anticipation of imported beef from America getting into Indonesia.  He said he was awaiting a policy statement from the Minister for Agriculture and the Director General of Animal Products.   Wow!  This is the face of our bureaucracy.  It has not changed.  But who can guarantee that mad cow beef has not already got in to our country?   For its price will of course be lower, and a bargain is a magnet for our nation, which gives no thought to the risk.  We do need to be careful about issuing the above statement, because it will have wide implications in the business world.  But we should not be slow about it.  Other countries very quickly took anticipatory action, did they not?  Are we waiting for there to be victims before we act?


MALAYSIA:   "The Impact Of Mad Cow Disease On Asia"


The independent Oriental Daily News observed (12/25):  "Malaysia has joined a growing number of Asian countries in suspending imports of U.S. beef after the U.S. reported its first case of mad cow disease.  Japan and South Korea, the top two buyers of U.S. beef, as well as Hong Kong and Taiwan have also suspended imports of U.S. beef.  It was reported that China might also impose a similar ban on U.S. beef as a preventive measure....  Malaysians should not be overly concerned about the impact of mad cow disease at the moment.  This is because according to the Veterinary Service Department, most of the imported beef is from India, Australia or New Zealand.  However, Malaysians have long cultivated the habit of consuming western food such as beef and hamburgers at U.S. fast-food restaurants and other western restaurants.


SOUTH KOREA:   "Beef Contaminated With 'Mad Cow Disease', A Non-Negotiable Matter"


The independent Dong-a Ilbo remarked(12/31):  "The ROKG's decision to keep its ban on U.S. beef imports was an appropriate measure, as the Korean people's health is at stake...  If the U.S. was faced with such a situation, it would have acted similarly.  The fact that the USFK has banned the use of beef from Washington State proves that even Americans are concerned about this mad cow disease case....  This issue is a non-negotiable matter and before the U.S. requests Korea to lift import bans, it should first prove that U.S. beef is safe for consumption.  If the U.S. fails to do so, and continues to demand that Korea resumes U.S. beef imports, then this would be viewed as unfair U.S. trade pressure and could even hurt ROK-U.S. relations."  


"U.S. Pressure for Lifting of Import Ban, Unreasonable"


The nationalist Hankyoreh Shinmun opined (12/31):  "A U.S. delegation has come to Korea to explain that U.S. beef if safe to eat and that the infected cows were originally from Canada.  However, there is no proof of these claims.  In addition, the U.S. is requesting other countries to lift their bans on U.S. beef, when domestically, it is taking its beef products off the market.  This is an immoral act, with the U.S. having only its national interest in mind.  Resumption of imports must follow international practices...and the ROKG must take a firm stance, making it clear that this is a non-negotiable matter....  The government must also take into account the views of academics who believe that muscle meat is not safe when making a decision on imports of muscle meat."


"ROK's Import Ban On U.S. Beef Is Not Subject Of Trade Friction"


The conservative Chosun Ilbo editorialized (12/30):  "The ROK's recent ban on the import of American beef following the discovery of the U.S.'s first case of mad cow disease cannot be a subject of trade friction.  If a Korean cow were found to have the deadly disease, the USG certainly would also take strong measures, including an import ban.  Accordingly, the series of measures taken by the ROKG following the discovery were appropriate and inevitable steps for a government that must put the people's health and food safety first.  It would be absurd [for the U.S.] to take issue with these ROK measures.  In particular, considering that U.S. beef accounts for 44 percent of the total Korean beef market, Washington should not call for Seoul to lift its import ban without presenting internationally recognized standards confirming that U.S. beef is safe from mad cow disease, and Seoul should not agree to such a U.S. demand, either."


"Korean Lives Should Not Be Subject of Negotiation"


The moderate Hankook Ilbo commented (12/30):  "It seems certain that the USG delegation, who will come to Seoul today, will ask the ROKG for an early resumption of its import of U.S. beef.  However, considering the ROKG's negative position on the U.S. move, there is concern about possible bilateral trade friction over the issue.  We believe that the problem of resuming our import of U.S. beef must not be a subject of negotiation because it is directly related to the lives of the Korean people.  In light of international law, the ROKG's import ban was an appropriate step as a sovereign country.  Rather, the ROKG must call for the visiting U.S. delegation to clarify the following things: When did the first case of mad cow disease (or BSE) occur in the U.S.; how much BSE-suspected beef did the U.S. export and through what routes; and what are the U.S. countermeasures....  In order for the U.S. to reenter the ROK's market, its 3rd largest export market, there is no way but for it to prove that it handled all BSE cases flawlessly."


"People's Safety Must Come First"


The conservative Segye Ilbo remarked (12/30):  "If the ROKG procrastinates taking stern action to contain the spread of mad cow disease to the country, fearful that its import ban on U.S. beef might escalate into bilateral trade friction, dealing a blow to its exports of automobiles and semiconductors, it would only add to the confusion.  With the mad cow disease scare spreading in our country, resumption of our import of U.S. beef will not be beneficial to both countries.  Because, even if the ROK drops its import ban, there would be few Korean importers who want to import U.S. beef as Korean consumers will avoid buying it.  Under no circumstancesshould the ROK lift its import ban on U.S. beef until the beef is declared to be safe from mad cow disease."


"Mad Cow Disease Isn't A Trade Issue"


The nationalistic, anti-North Korean, English-language Choson Ilbo held (12/30):  "The situation is one in which the mad cow situation in the U.S. could develop into a trade issue.  Put most simply, this is not something that can be the subject of trade friction. Had a Korean cow been found to have mad cow disease, the U.S. government undoubtedly would have taken strong action, including import restrictions.  When the Korean government issued import restrictions and other measures regarding American beef, it was doing what it naturally had to do - putting the people's health and food safety first.  It would be inappropriate to take issue with that.  As much as 44 percent of the beef on the Korean market comes from the U.S., so until there are internationally recognized standards for judging American beef to be absolutely safe from mad cow disease, the U.S. can't be unreasonably asking for import restrictions to be lifted, and the Korean government can't agree to such demands, either.  From the U.S. perspective, it makes sense to stress the safety of American beef and come asking for the Korean government's understanding, given how the losses from the mad cow situation will be great.  But to take a forum for consultation and explanation and allow it to appear like trade pressure or friction would not be desirable, when you consider the whole of the U.S.-Korea relationship.  It must be understood that the situation is not one over which Korea and the United States should confront each other.  It is something that must be worked on together, for cooperation in keeping consumer safety, the highest priority.


"Mad Cows And Sick Ducks"


The independent, moderate English-language Chungang Ilbo remarked (12/26):  "Following the probable outbreak of mad cow disease in the United States, the whole world is in an emergency situation.  The Korean government responded to the outbreak by stopping the import of beef from the United States.  But concern for the disease is spreading.  With the recent outbreaks of bird flu and hog cholera here, the concern about beef further aggravates worries over food....  It is well known that mad cow disease may infect humans, so the import of meat infected with the disease should be strictly prohibited.  Beef currently circulating in the nation should be investigated thoroughly as well.  Spines and internal organs of cattle, parts that are said to be risky, should be collected and destroyed.  Processed foods and related products made from American beef should be checked as well....  The authorities and farmers should make efforts to find out whether domestic cattle are infected with the disease and, if not, to prevent them from catching it.  It is also necessary to publicize not to feed mixed feed of ground animal bones and leftover meat suspected to carry the disease.  The government should provide the necessary personnel and equipment to support such efforts, and cattle raisers should cooperate with the government....  The measure to secure a sufficient supply of beef is urgent as well.  U.S. beef imports are 44 percent of domestic beef consumption.  Beef imports from 23 countries where the disease has broken out, including the United Kingdom and Canada, are already banned.   Because we can import beef only from Australia and New Zealand, supplies may not be sufficient.  The demand for beef will increase further with the holidays coming, and if concern about avian flu continues, the price of domestic beef could skyrocket....  Consumers, for their part, should not aggravate the situation by getting overly concerned and fearful.  Studies show that hog cholera will not infect humans and that eating chicken and duck meat is safe as long as the meat is cooked.  The government should not only take preventive measures against these diseases, but also provide precise scientific information about them to our people."




CANADA:  "Moo-ve It"


The conservative tabloid Ottawa Sun commented (1/5):  "It's time for Canada, the U.S. and their beef industries to fish or cut bait.  Either come up to the levels of testing for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) demanded in the European Union and Japan, or be relegated forever to the sidelines....  Perception is crucial.  Canada needs to make a statement by going to BSE testing of all cattle for consumption.  New tests are not only inexpensive but results are back within hours, in time to prevent a positive cow from getting into the food system. One of the new tests was developed by Dr. Stanley Prusiner of California....  His test costs two to three cents a pound. Is that too much for doing the right thing?  Is that too much for your peace of mind?  Is that too much to get Canadian beef - 80% of it exported - back on the world market?"


"A Test Of Confidence"


The nationalist Ottawa Citizen opined (12/31): "Consumers and the industry's critics worry about the lack of animal testing and whether the purity of cows' feed supply can be guaranteed.  The experts say there's no risk of disease in young animals, but there's now a report of a 21-month-old bull with BSE in Japan.  Japan is spending a lot of money testing each cow that it slaughters because it wants to give consumers an ironclad assurance that meat that enters the food system is safe....  There has been significant progress in developing faster, more accurate tests for this disease in the U.S. in recent months.  Yesterday, a Colorado company said it had developed a blood test that could produce test results for the disease in 24-48 hours.  Rather than ramping up another costly farm bailout program, the federal government should, in partnership with the cattlemen's association, focus on an enhanced inspection process, and controls on the feeding of animals, that assure the beef-buying public here and abroad of disease-free animals.  Such extra vigilance may ultimately be deemed overkill, but it's what the market demands."


"Manage Mad Cow Fears"


The liberal Toronto Star editorialized (12/30):  "We live in a risk-filled world.  Just taking a stroll can kill....  Even in areas where infected beef may have been marketed, consumers should understand that the risk of developing the human form of mad cow — variant Creutzfeldt Jakob disease — remains exceedingly low....  That is not an argument for complacency.  Better tracking is needed to trace the origin of an infected animal.  Rules on feed should be re-examined, and toughened as needed.  As Canadians have discovered, billions of dollars in livestock trade, and the public's confidence, depend on stringent safeguards.  In this area, we can't be too safe."


"More Pain For Western Ranchers"


The conservative National Post held (12/30):  "Isolated cases of mad cow disease pose little threat to public health.  But such is the hysteria surrounding Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE)...that the single mad cow infection discovered in Washington State this month caused dozens of nations to ban U.S. beef.  If, as now seems likely, the infected cow is shown to have ultimately come from an Alberta herd, that same hysteria will victimize Canadian ranchers and cattle farmers as well.  The timing could not be worse. Meat exports to the United States were just now returning to their customary levels following last May's mad cow scare.  And the U.S.' Department of Agriculture appeared set to lift its remaining restrictions on live-cattle exports and dressed carcasses in coming months.  But another Canadian-born BSE case will give the clucking protectionists in the United States Congress -- such as North Dakota Democratic Senator Byron Dorgan -- more ammunition to preserve the ban.  If it also emboldens them to push the Bush administration to reimpose this past summer's meat prohibitions, the impact could be catastrophic....  The reality is that there are not two markets for beef in North America -- American and Canadian.  There is just one continental market....  In the short term, however, American producers' incomes might benefit from protectionist trade bans.  And 2004 being an election year, American politicians are in short-term thinking mode.  Measures that play to voters' fears and prejudices will be easy sells until next November.  All the more reason Mr. Martin and his Agriculture Minister, Bob Speller, need to impress upon Washington the sensibility of developing continental solutions to mad cow, rather than locking the border-crossing gates every time an infected animal is identified.  Ottawa moved far too slowly to reassure the Americans of the safety of Canada's beef supply in the aftermath of May's scare: More than six months later, it has yet to ban the use of brain, spinal and other nerve tissue from all animal feed. (It has been banned for feeding cattle since 1997, but can still be used in chicken and pet feed, from which it is theoretically possible cattle can pick up infected material.)  If it waits as long this time, there will be far more bankruptcies and foreclosures. The Canadian beef industry cannot afford for Ottawa to be passive."


"Battling The Latest Case Of Mad Cow Disease"


The leading Globe and Mail commented (12/30):  "Once again, Canada is in the grip of a serious problem brought on by a single diseased cow....  That is a common occurrence in the once-borderless business of cattle trading, but it bodes ill for the already hard-hit Canadian beef industry....  The first confirmed U.S. case of mad-cow disease, as BSE has been colourfully dubbed, may very well have struck an animal bearing a Canadian birth certificate.  But that's the nature of an open trading system....  At the same time, U.S. officials and producers are doing exactly what their Canadian counterparts did last spring and summer: insisting that their meat supply is safe, that their inspection system works just fine and that the bans on imports imposed by more than 30 countries are not justified by the scientific facts.  U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman went so far as to assure Americans that meat from the infected cow 'should be entirely safe' because its brain, spinal cord and central nervous system tissue, where the disease is known to reside, were removed when it was slaughtered.  Yet her department immediately ordered the recall of 4,500 kilograms of meat from the infected cow and others slaughtered on the same day by the same abattoir....  Such is the nature of mad-cow disease, whose frightening spectre vastly overstates the risk and leads to a remarkable level of hysteria.  The fact is that mad-cow does not spread easily to humans.  It may not spread at all if they stick to roasts, steaks and other cuts derived from muscle tissue (although experts say there is not yet scientific proof to back assertions that such meat is entirely safe).  Even cattle aren't easily infected.  The Harvard Center for Risk Analysis has concluded that one infected imported cow will result in less than one new bovine case in 20 years.  Aggressive measures by various governments have gone a long way toward eliminating even that small risk.  But it would be a mistake to assume that nothing more needs to be done. Testing every single cow for BSE, as the Japanese do, would be prohibitively expensive and probably unnecessary, but there should certainly be far more cattle tested.  Government inspectors should also be taking scientific samples of what the animals are fed, rather than relying for safety on the written records of the ranchers and feedlot operators themselves.  Better tracking of imported cattle would also help....  Mad-cow disease is no respecter of boundaries.  That's why it is patently ridiculous for Americans or Canadians to get into nationalistic finger pointing at a time when they should be working solely on a joint solution to a crisis that once again has put an important industry at risk."


"Mad Cow"


The conservative tabloid Ottawa Sun observed (12/29):  "The crisis does offer an important opportunity for progress beyond the madness (pardon the expression) we saw just seven months ago, when a single mad cow was found here....  In the Canadian case, it took six full weeks to conclusively determine where the cow came from.  (Ironically enough, it had U.S. roots.)  It will take exhaustive tests to determine how and where the U.S. cow contracted mad cow, or BSE -- bovine spongiform encephalopathy....  In that respect, Canada's response has been admirable.  We have not closed our border to U.S. beef, as tempting as it may be after last spring's devastating embargo by the U.S.  Instead, Canadian and U.S. officials are working together to find the source of the disease -- an approach that only makes sense, given our integrated cattle markets....  It's time for less hysteria and more science.  Canadians know last spring's mad cow mania was simply outrageous.  There was never any risk to the human food supply, and our beef market was unfairly punished.  Now U.S. officials are asserting the same thing, and they're right.  Slamming borders shut will help no one and won't help eradicate BSE....  Like it or not, Canada and the U.S. are in this together.  It's a time for open minds, not closed borders."


"Common Sense on Mad Cow"


The conservative National Post remarked (12/27):  "Last May, a single case of Mad Cow disease was discovered in northern Alberta.  Though there was no evidence of a wider epidemic, international buyers immediately shut their doors to our meat and the Canadian beef industry was decimated.  The loss of the American market alone, it is estimated, cost Canada $11-million per day, as well as 5,000 jobs.  With the discovery of a Mad Cow case in Washington State this week, Canadian beef producers can be forgiven if they felt a slight jolt of schadenfreude:  The shoe is now on the other hoof.  But putting schadenfreude to one side, we see this as an excellent opportunity for the world to adopt a more rational attitude to the risks associated with Mad Cow disease.  Like other beef-producing countries, Canada will likely see occasional, isolated outbreaks of Mad Cow in future years, and it would benefit our ranchers if the world community did not greet the news in the absurdly phobic fashion that is currently on display in regard to the United States....  As hysteria builds in the United States, it is important to remember that such a large outbreak could never occur again in any Western country....  And yet, tiny BSE outbreaks in Japan, continental Europe and Canada have all led to multi-billion dollar beef bans in recent years.  On Wednesday, Japan, South Korea and Mexico all moved to suspend imports from the United States, and dozens of smaller countries have since followed suit....  This phobic attitude must end: Enough time has elapsed since the shock and fright associated with Britain's original Mad Cow outbreak that the leading beef-producing and - consuming nations of the world should now be expected to exhibit a rational appreciation of the disease's risks.  No one disputes that trade should take a back seat to human health.  But where Mad Cow is concerned, it is taking a back seat to hysteria."


"America's Mad Cow"


Arthur Kempan remarked in the leading Globe and Mail (12/26):  "Since the U.S. has written the book on what to do when a single, solitary case of BSE is discovered, it is clear that Canada should ban all shipments of U.S. beef into this country for a very lengthy period.  We have also had media reports of spiders transported into Canada on U.S.-grown red grapes, clearly a hazard to the safety of Canadian citizens.  Until the U.S. can prove its grapes are safe for us to handle, they should be banned also.  Finally, Winnipeg police recently uncovered a cache of illegal firearms which were stolen from a U.S. gun shop and subsequently transported into Canada for use in criminal activity.  If the U.S. didn't have such lax gun laws we wouldn't be subjected to the dangers posed by these firearms.  Clearly, another case illustrating the danger the U.S. poses to Canadians and another case worthy of sanction.  As the old saying goes, what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander."


ARGENTINA:  "'Mad Cow' And Its Consequences"


Sergio Persoglia wrote in leading Clarin (1/03):  "The 'mad cow' case announced last week in the U.S. hasn't produced - as many forecasted - major benefits for Argentina.  Instead, meat industrialists are very worried about their exports.  The price of the soybean is firm, but at a similar level to the one it had last week....  For the time being, it's a tough blow for the U.S. meat industry, which moves over 40 billion dollars a year....  Over 30 countries closed their markets to meat coming from the U.S., among them its major clients, such as Japan, South Korea and Mexico.  But Argentina can't take advantage of this because it has a sanitary status (free of foot-and-mouth disease with vaccination) that isn't enough to reach the world's main customers....  Moreover, local industrialists are concerned about the future consequences if U.S. meat can't reach its usual markets....  An Argentine meat industrialist said 'if rumors which say that Japan doesn't allow U.S. meat to enter its country are confirmed, this means the containers will be forced to return and the U.S. will have to sell the meat in other markets.  This will lead to a fall in prices as a consequence of excessive offer.'"


"Due To 'Mad Cow Disease' In The U.S., Argentina Could Receive An Additional 2 Billion Dollars For Soy"


Patricia Van Ploeg held in business-financial Ambito Financiero (12/29):  "The new scenario posed by the mad cow disease, which will make the U.S. replace beef flour demand by vegetal protein demand, could unleash a 20 per cent increase in the soy's FOB price in the U.S. and it could spark an additional income of almost 2 billion dollars for Argentina.  Ann Frick, the export in soy from Prudential Financial, a prestigious consulting company..., calculated the shocking piece of news.  This is good news for Argentina, the first world exporter of soy flour, with 20 million tons per year at 225 dollars each."


"Some Room Is Open For Argentina And Brazil"


Nestor Restivo remarked in leading Clarin (12/28):  "Argentina, which in the first half of the 20th century was the main world exporter of meat, will not be able to take advantage of the bad situation in the U.S.  But it could well profit from higher grain prices.  Its flours and beans could well gain room in the food for animals in replacement of the animal-origin by-products suspected....  Re meat, however, Argentina cannot take big advantage due to its own foot-and-mouth problem....  The U.S. has been the first world producer and exporter of meat up to now.  In 2004, it will lose its export leadership.  And there are countries making progress, like Brazil, which could become the export leader in a couple of years."


"US Beef Prices Will Slump"


Alberto de las Carreras opined in the centrist daily-of-record Nacion (12/27):  "If the world reacts to this cow infected with the mad cow disease in the same way it did last May to the case in Canada..., we will witness the most important sanitary and commercial crisis since the trading flow of beef started between South America and Europe 120 years ago....  High U.S. prices of cattle will slump as happened in Canada.  Americans, who consume 90 per cent of the beef production, will reduce these dietary requirements and their exports, which used to amount to one million tons, one sixth of the world's total production and also its huge imports....   Australia, free from foot-and-mouth and mad cow disease, could profit from the unsupplied Asian demand, along with New Zealand in a lesser degree."


"U.S. 'Mad Cow Disease' Shows Argentina Must Restructure Animal Sanitary Services"


The centrist daily-of-record Nacion editorialized (12/27):  "[BSE] will affect not only the agricultural, industrial, and commercial economy of the United States, a major producer, consumer, exporter, and importer of beef, but it will also affect many other countries around the world and provoke distortions in world trade.  It remains to be seen how Argentine beef exports will be affected but because of the existence here of foot-and-mouth disease the country is not well positioned to confront the crisis.  It is therefore necessary to reiterate the importance of restructuring the National Service for Agrifood, Health, and Quality (Senasa) sanitary services. It is also necessary to start on this now because events have shown that one sick animal is enough to unleash a crisis."


"Concern Over First Case of 'Mad Cow' Disease in U.S., Which Affects Argentina Due To Fall In Prices"


Business-financial Ambito Financiero observed (12/24):  "The U.S. admitted the first case of 'Mad Cow Disease' in its territory, and news rocked the meat market.  A negative impact on consumers is expected, in addition to a fall in demand and a strong drop in prices.  The issue is very negative for Bush, but it will also affect Argentina very seriously, due to a strong reduction in the price of meat.  The fact that Argentina is internationally certified as 'free of mad cow disease' won't help. The U.S. - which controls the third part of world trade - will lose markets -- such as Japan --, which today are banned for Argentine exports....  But it will also be very difficult for Argentina to access these markets, due to its 'foot-and-mouth' disease problem."


COLOMBIA:  "The Threat of 'Mad Cows'"


The pro-conservative party Pais declared (12/29):  "Just as the world believed that it had overcome the nightmare of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) -- better known as "mad cow disease" -- a new case in the United States has raised alarm among the sanitary authorities of several countries.  Thirty countries, including Colombia, have already closed their borders to imports of U.S. beef.  This closure, which aims to halt the expansion of the disease, has generated unease on international livestock markets, since the United States is the world's main meat exporter. The forecasts of those who had warned that mad cow disease would spread, unless in-depth and industry-wide reform measures were implemented, appear to have come true. And today, thousands of people have again been exposed to one to the world's most devastating diseases, which caused hundreds of deaths and huge financial losses in those countries where it first appeared during the 1980's."


"'Mad Cows': Repeating History?"


The pro-liberal party Tiempo opined (Internet version, 12/27):  "Now the government sounds the alarm generated by the appearance in the U.S. of the first verified case of 'mad cow,' the bovine disease that 17 years ago  caused one of the worst catastrophies in recent history in the United Kingdom: the death of 140 people, the destruction of 2.7 million cattle and the loss of...millions of dollars.  The United States has more than a hundred million cattle heads, slaughters 30 million a year and exports 3,500 million dollars annually in vone products, but only tests 3,000 cattle each year.  Consequently, the news that a Holstein slaughtered on the 9th of December in the state of Washington suffered the feared sickness sounded the sanitary alarms and paralized imports of meat in various countries, including Colombia.  The U.S. government is contemplating the adoption of similar measures taken by Great Britain in 1986, such as examining all of the cattle and incinerating those that are affected.  Although the Secretary of Agriculture, Ann Veneman, has tried to calm consumers, she believies that there will be a noticeable decrease in the consumption of meat."


MEXICO:  "'Mad Cow,' A Real Threat"


An unsigned editorial in the nationalist Universal acknowledged (12/26):  "Much is at risk for Mexico in terms of the possible spread of mad cow disease to this country....  For this reason, the country's animal health authorities [should] fully and strictly uphold the international standards to prevent the spread of the disease....  Mexico made the decision to suspend imports of U.S. beef hours after the health authorities became aware of the mad cow situation.  This is worrisome because of the large volume of U.S. beef that Mexico imports, and the decline of the Mexico beef industry, which was once a net exporter....  Major economic interests and the fast food industry should not be allowed to influence the decision to restrict U.S. beef imports.  In the international markets, the news of an infected cow caused a landslide of actions by transnational corporations and it is clear that they are attempting to minimize the warning for consumers.  It is important for Mexico to be vigilant in enforcing the prohibition against using animal feed that contains beef by-products....  Mexico does not have to return to the same bitter battle it faced to contain foot and mouth disease....  Preventive measures must be applied strictly in order to prevent another such crisis.


NICARAGUA:  "'Stop' To U.S. Meat"


Center-right Managua Prensa held (12/26):  "Mario Arana, Nicaraguan Minister of Economy, confirmed the temporary suspension of meat imports coming in from the U.S. because the GON does not have enough information to define if the 'infection' is isolated or general....  He said that they are monitoring the situation closely so as to determine additional measures or center the suspension to specific 'pieces.'...  According to Alfredo Marín, executive director of the industrial slaughterhouse San Martín, this measure lacks logic because the cow that was infected was a milking cow and just one amid a billion cows in the U.S."



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