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From: TSS ()
Subject: JAPAN Upper House cancels mad cow meeting
Date: June 7, 2005 at 5:28 pm PST

Upper House cancels mad cow meeting

A lack of key witnesses caused the House of Councilors agriculture panel to cancel a meeting Tuesday in which a resolution calling for "caution" in resuming beef imports from the U.S. was expected to be adopted.
The witnesses, prion experts from a key government panel, apparently refused to appear due to academic obligations.

Beef imports from the U.S. have been halted since the December 2003 discovery of its first case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy. The independent Food Safety Commission is deliberating whether that ban should be lifted.

In an unusual twist to Diet routine that is basically carved in stone, committee Chairman Yoshio Nakagawa declared the Upper House panel adjourned just moments after it opened for the day, saying two members of the Food Safety Commission could not appear as witnesses for the government.

"We asked two people, including Yasuhiro Yoshikawa, head of a commission panel studying prions, to appear today as witnesses, but they said that they cannot do so," Nakagawa said. "The reasons they have given for their inability to attend have kept changing and are unclear, and I find this difficult to understand."

According to the secretariat for the Upper House panel, Yoshikawa and his deputy on the prion panel, Kiyotoshi Kaneko, had been asked to appear but couldn't because their schedules were filled with engagements related to their universities.

The ongoing deliberations by the Food Safety Commission are the last step before the ban on U.S. beef imports can be lifted.

Japan initially demanded that Washington provide the same safety precautions that are in place for domestic beef -- blanket testing of all cows for the brain-wasting illness.

The two governments agreed in October to resume trade in U.S. beef that comes from carcasses 20 months of age or younger. In May, the Food Safety Commission proposed to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry and the farm ministry that cattle slaughtered at an age of 20 months or younger be exempt from testing.

The Japan Times: June 8, 2005
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