Trade Negotiations and Private Testing Issues
Jan Lyons, Kansas cattle producer and National Cattlemen's Beef Association President
April 19, 2004

"On behalf of America’s beef producers, we believe it is critically important the U.S. government retain oversight for animal health and food safety, as well as international trade negotiations as we try to regain access to export markets that closed to U.S. beef after the December 23 discovery of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE). The recent debate over private testing for BSE as a marketing tool continues to disrupt government-to-government discussions on restoring trade for U.S. beef, impose economic stress on our cattlemen and undermine consumer confidence in a safe product.

"We cannot compromise the science that serves as the basis for food safety and global trade of safe food. A departure from science-based decision making would create a precedent for future regulations and trade demands that would negatively affect U.S. cattlemen without protecting public or animal health.

"Testing of all cattle is not scientifically justified. The world’s leading experts in animal health and risk analysis, including the World Organization for Animal Health and the USDA’s International Review Team, have agreed that testing all cattle does not provide additional protection for consumers. The International Review Team report commissioned by USDA states, 'the subcommittee considers testing of all cattle slaughtered for human consumption to be unjustified in terms of protecting human and animal health.' The multiple firewalls erected over the past 15 years to protect our food supply from this disease – including the feed ban, surveillance system and removal of specified risk material from the food supply – ensures we continue to produce safe beef for consumers here and abroad. 

"Internationally recognized scientific standards must be the guidepost for food safety and trade decisions. Allowing private companies to use testing as a “marketing” tool, before the government first establishes the framework for trade based upon science, will place undue costs on cattlemen without producing additional protections for consumers and our animal herds. Resources spent on this unwarranted effort will take resources away from efforts that do improve the safety of our food supply and the health of our cattle. 

"Testing is not a simple marketing decision that will only impact those who decide to surrender to this unjustified request in order to gain access to export markets. Japan did not ban beef just from one company. It banned all beef from the United States.  If one market requires 100 percent testing, all cattle in the U.S. would have to follow this standard because products from the majority of cattle harvested in the United States are exported. This unwarranted testing would become the standard for doing business, and the cost will be born by U.S. cattle producers. This is a decision that affects the entire industry. Therefore, it is critical the U.S. government establish the parameters by which U.S. beef can be exported.

"Furthermore, the U.S. beef industry is the largest sector of agriculture and one of the largest sectors of the U.S. economy. The use of sensitive BSE testing methods without adequate security and oversight raises the real risk that rumors of potential false-positives would negatively impact the nation’s economy and unnecessarily alarm consumers, risking thousands of jobs and billions of dollars. Cattlemen don’t need to relive December 23 due to an unchecked rumor.

"America's beef producers are committed to producing the safest beef in the world. The beef we produce is not only served in homes around the world, it’s served in our own homes to our own families. That’s why we strongly support a targeted BSE testing program that tests older animals and those in high-risk categories that are susceptible to this disease. We simply want science to establish the standard for international trade."

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