Pragmatism, Responsibility, and Balance Will Resolve US Beef Controversy
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
June 12 2012
Summary: When determining the health effects of Ractopamine on human health, we should consult the experts. We should weigh the benefits against the risks. We should conduct pragmatic, rational, and in-depth discussions. Public health is in the national interest. But free trade is also in the national interest. The DPP is in the political opposition. But it is still responsible for promoting the nation's competitiveness and economic growth. Is staging a violent occupation of the legislature really in the national interest?
Full Text below:
This week the Legislative Yuan will deal with the Food Sanitation Management Act, which will lift the ban on U.S. beef imports. Yesterday DPP legislators occupied the podium and threatened violent confrontation. The KMT issued a Grade A mobilization order. A scorched-earth war is now about to unfold before our very eyes. It it does, it will contribute nothing to sound policies or the national interest. It will contribute nothing to communication between rival parties or social harmony.
U.S. beef imports are actually an economic issue. But it is an economic issue that involves a number of national interests. DPP legislators should deal with them responsibly and pragmatically. If they stage yet another brawl in the legislature for the international media, they will undermine Taiwan's international image. They will also prevent reasoned discussion and rational decision-making.
Ractopamine has the lowest toxicity of the many substances used to ensure lean meat. The medical community has yet to reach a conclusion regarding its impact on human health. But so far there have been no cases of proven harm. Therefore it is the only substance approved internationally. The U.S. government sets an upper limit of 30 ppb, Under duress, the Japanese and South Korean governments allowed in U.S. beef imports. As a result, the Lee Myung-bak administration had to weather ta political storm. The EU has imposed a total ban. The United Nations Codex Alimentarius Commission will discuss the matter in July.
If one wishes to be absolutely, 100% safe. then of course one should not add any pharmaceuticals to livestock feed. But this is difficult to achieve in practice. Under the circumstances, one must consider the health effects, operating profits, and other factors. If the pharmaceutical inflicts serious harm to human health, then of course it should be banned. But if the health impact is minor, or if small amounts cause no harm, and is beneficial to industry revenue, one can set upper limits. Examples include pesticides, which can cause human death. The ROC government and other governments allow pesticide use but impose upper limits on pesticide residues. Another example is cigarettes and betel nuts, both of which are highly carcinogenic. The government allows their sale and cultivation.
All factors should be considered. The key is to find the proper balance between various concerns. The national interest includes a variety of interests. There is no conclusive evidence that Ractopamine is harmful to human health. Pesticides and cigarettes by contrast, are known to be harmful to human health. Therefore U.S. beef imports ought to be negotiable. Other national interests should be considered. The policy debate should not be monopolized by a single voice.
It is not easy for the ROC to survive amidst fierce international competition. The moment we falter, other nations will pass us. One must adopt a global perspective. The global economy is in turmoil. Seventy percent of our GDP growth depends on exports. As a result, it is in crisis. South Korea, Hong Kong, and Singapore, the other Asian Tigers, are clearly ahead of us. Recently ECFA has given our economy a shot in the arm. Nevertheless we must diversify, We must avoid over-reliance on the Mainland. We must sign free trade agreements with other economies. This is something the DPP itself has long advocated.
The U.S. government has made its position crystal clear. Allowing U.S. beef imports is a prerequisite for TIFA (Taiwan-US Trade and Investment Framework Agreement), It is a prerequisite for FTAs (free trade agreements) and the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement). The public wants the government to sign FTAs with other countries. But free trade agreements are never one way streets. One must give a little to get a little. There is always a quid pro quo between governments. If both parties do the math and come out ahead, the deal is done. The ROC wants other governments to sign FTAs. We must be psychologically prepared to give something in return. The United States is no exception.
The ROC's international status is unique. Other governments often have reservations about talking to us. This is one reason the ROC lags so far behind South Korea on FTA negotiations. The United States is an important export market. It is one of the ROC's long-term allies. It is the nation with which the ROC is most likely to sign an FTA. Signing an FTA with the US could have a bandwagon effect on other governments.
The effects of Ractopamine on the human body are still unclear. The government wants to control its use. Therefore it can impose safe limits. it can distinguish between beef and pork. It can impose mandatory labeling. It can exclude organ meats. It can allow consumers to decide. Just like smokers can decide whether to live with the risks of cigarettes. There is no need to treat U.S. beef imports as more terrifying than pesticides. Besides, many consumers think U.S. beef is better in quality, The U.S. government has limited Ractopamine residues. Therefore the DPP should agree to their importation.
When determining the health effects of Ractopamine on human health, we should consult the experts. We should weigh the benefits against the risks. We should conduct pragmatic, rational, and in-depth discussions. Public health is in the national interest. But free trade is also in the national interest. U.S. beef imports have become a Blue vs. Green battlefield. Rational discussion is no longer possible. It has become difficult to distinguish between important and unimportant considerations. The DPP is in the political opposition. But it is still responsible for promoting the nation's competitiveness and economic growth. Is staging a a violent occupation of the legislature really in the national interest?
務實 負責 平衡 化解美牛爭議