- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 6, 2004

U.S. and Canadian officials yesterday said genetic tests confirm that the United States’ first case of mad cow disease originated north of the border.

“We now have evidence that allows us to verify with a high degree of certainty that the BSE-positive cow found in the state of Washington originated on a dairy farm in Alberta, Canada,” said Ron DeHaven, the U.S. Agriculture Department’s chief veterinary officer.

BSE stands for bovine spongiform encephalopathy, the scientific name for mad cow disease.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman on Dec. 23 announced the United States’ first mad cow case from a single dairy cow on a farm in Washington state.

The fatal affliction ravaged cattle industries and caused public health scares in Europe through the 1990s. The disease eats holes in the brains of cattle and in rare instances has infected humans who eat tainted tissue. In humans, the malady is called variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

The confirmation that the U.S. case originated in Canada is small consolation to the U.S. cattle industry and federal agriculture officials, indicating that no native-born cases of the disease have been found on American farms but not allaying concerns of trade partners.

More than 30 nations, which were expected to buy about 10 percent of beef production worth more than $3 billion, suspended imports after the mad cow case announcement.

Dr. DeHaven acknowledged that the U.S. and Canadian cattle markets are closely integrated, and that joint efforts will be necessary to root out the source of the disease and to prevent future cases.

Government and industry officials hope that the DNA test results released yesterday, coupled with information from an ongoing investigation and new measures to prevent the disease, will persuade foreign nations to resume buying U.S. beef.

Two of the biggest importers, Japan and Mexico, have indicated that it may be months before trade resumes.

U.S. trade teams have visited Mexico, Japan and South Korea to explain mad cow prevention efforts and to push for a resumption of trade, but have not been successful.

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