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From: TSS ()
Subject: No more American beef without a change in American attitudes
Date: August 13, 2007 at 7:39 am PST

[Editorial] No more American beef without a change in American attitudes

The very day after Korea found a banned, partial vertebral column in a shipment of American beef and decided to ban all further imports, the United States once again asked that Korea revise its meat quarantine guidelines. The right thing to do would be for the United States to apologize for failing to maintain guidelines that represent a commitment between the two countries, and to take action to prevent further cases. It is a one-sided attitude to demand further talks without first following through on that, but is to be expected since the United States gives no thought to opposing positions and attempts to achieve only its own interests. It will also lead to a considerable amount of ill-feeling among the Korean people, if you think of how Korea will be unable to reject the request because of the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement.

The U.S. demand, based on the World Organization for Animal Healths (OIE) assessment that the country has its mad cow threat under control, is that Korea import its beef regardless of the age of its beef cows and whether or not the beef contains bone fragments and specified risk materials that could cause bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease. It is a demonstration of Americas arrogant approach to beef negotiations when, in response to the discovery of a vertebral column, it says there is no safety problem, except for the fact the cow was younger than 30 months old.

Whatever happens with the negotiations, the current quarantine guidelines should be strictly maintained. In other words, when it comes to this vertebral column episode, the first thing that needs to happen is for the United States to take some persuasive action. If the U.S. government thinks that Korea has a lot of beef with guidelines that are going to be changed anyway, or that it might as well take this opportunity to get all the problematic beef parts included in the list of imports, then it needs to reexamine the very approach it takes on the issue at hand.

The Korean government, for its part, needs to take this opportunity to adopt a firm stance on specified risk materials. OIE standards are just recommendations, and Korea is not obligated to adopt them all. We Koreans cook and eat bones, too, so it is only a matter of course that we need far more stringent guidelines, and our government has the authority to decide what the quarantine guidelines are going to be. The U.S. attitude, in which it pushes demands that it justifies with OIE standards, is an inappropriate one even when it comes to international practices.

Considering the problems that have become apparent in the U.S. quarantine system and how hard it is to weed out specified risk materials once you permit bone fragments, the conclusion is relatively clear. At the very least, the standard for boneless lean meat under 30 months of age must be maintained. Naturally Korea should not allow the importation of risk materials without regard to age. The country cannot guarantee the safety of imported beef by touring a few related sites in the United States and going over a few documents given to us by American exporters.


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