- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 13, 2005

Tuesday’s announcement by the Canadian government that a second case of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE or Mad Cow disease) in less than a month had been detected in Canada should not affect the expanded beef and cattle trade with Canada announced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Jan 4.

For the past two years, I have advocated applying sound science to deciding whether to reopen the border to Canadian cattle and beef imports. Sound science is critical, because it separates fact from myth and ignores “mad cow” hysterics. Televised pictures of seizure-stricken cows draw viewers but do not represent the truth behind the image.

The border closing has created a market imbalance. For instance, a Canadian packer could buy a cow for about $17 (U.S.) per hundred-weight (cwt) and sell the processing-grade beef for about $123 (U.S.) per cwt. He also could buy a fed steer or heifer at about $67 U.S. per cwt and sell the beef for about $132 (U.S.) per cwt. In the United States, the cow would cost a packer about $55 per cwt and the beef would sell for about $125 per cwt; a fed steer or heifer would cost about $85 per cwt and the beef would sell for about $135 per cwt. This imbalance has led, in part, to the layoff of thousands of people in the processing industry across our nation.

On Jan. 4, the Agriculture Department (USDA) published a final rule that leads toward resumed trade with Canada. The rule allows for importing certain animals when certified to hail from a so-called “minimal-risk region.” This is similar to how we eliminate brucellosis in cattle on a state-by-state basis.

The current situation should not be used as an excuse to stop trade resumption. The new rule is grounded in solid, sound science, and will help end a situation that has wreaked havoc on beef trade for too long. It will protect the integrity of the human food supply system and stabilize agriculture trade.

Beef trade with Canada should move forward because measures by both the United States and Canada are working as planned to ensure detection of BSE and that the beef is safe and wholesome. Canada meets the requirements for a minimal-risk region based upon a number of its actions:

• Prohibition of specified risk materials in human food.

• Import restrictions sufficient to minimize BSE exposure.

• Surveillance for BSE at levels meeting or exceeding international guidelines.

• Ruminant-to-ruminant feed ban in place and effectively enforced.

• Appropriate epidemiological investigations, risk assessment and risk mitigation measures imposed.

The finding of a second case of BSE in Canada proves the Canadian BSE surveillance system is working. A second case was not entirely unexpected, given that cattle predating the feed ban are still alive in both countries. The extensive risk assessment conducted as part of USDA’s rulemaking process took into careful consideration the possibility Canada could find additional BSE cases.

The U.S. has taken strong steps to protect the safety of the food supply system. Opening the border to trade with Canada will normalize the relationship with one of our strongest trade partners and bring science into the trade discussion.

As a veterinarian, I know we have the world’s safest food supply. As a senator, I will work with federal agencies to assure compliance. As a parent, I will continue serving American beef at dinner.

Wayne Allard, Republican and veterinarian, is the senior U.S. senator from Colorado.

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