FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Meat Wars with South Korea

“We Don’t Like The FDA,” chant ten thousand demonstrators in candlelight vigils, some dressed as cows.

“Mad Cow, You Eat It!”

“Send Mad Cow To The Presidential Office!”

A scene from the National Mall? San Francisco?

No the nightly rallies are in Seoul and 22 other South Korean cities to protest ratification of the pending US/South Korea free trade agreement, KORUS FTA.

The agreement, drafted a year ago but not yet signed, would boost two-way trade between the nations to $98 billion a year from $78 under the condition that South Korea lift almost all restrictions on U.S. beef, including the age of butchered cattle.

KORUS FTA is considered the most significant event in South Korea-U.S. relations since the 1953 military accord and was punctuated by a visit last month from newly elected South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak to Camp David where no South Korean president has been invited. Lee is a pro-American conservative, unlike his predecessor Roh Moo-hyun who was elected on an anti-American platform.

While the FTA delivers on Lee’s pledge to double South Korea’s wealth if elected and lets the U.S. rebuild its Asian beef trade obliterated by a mad cow scare five years ago–especially exports to China and Japan–many in South Korea are saying, “You want us to import WHAT”?

Because South Korean cuisine, “includes cow bones and intestines that are believed to have a higher concentration of prions,” writes Cho Jin-seo in South Korea Times, South Koreans feel they are at greater risk for Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD) if the beef is infected with mad cow disease.

They interpret the agreement’s prohibition of, “the use of the entire carcass of cattle not inspected and passed for human consumption, unless the cattle are less than 30 months of age, or the brains and spinal cords have been removed,” to mean meat from cattle under 30 months old or stripped of the high-risk materials will be uninspected.

Gruesome TV programs featuring cows being slaughtered and a report by a professor of medicine at Hallym University on MBC that South Koreans are genetically more vulnerable to vCJD–which other scientists refuted–have fanned the flames. So have Internet based rumors that cosmetics, diapers, sanitary napkins and noodles contain cow tissue and are contaminated.

Until the discovery of mad cow disease in the U.S. in 2003, South Korea was the third largest importer of U.S. beef, spending $850 million year. It eased the ban in 2006 only to find backbones, a banned substance, lurking in the beef and reban it (see: Charlie Brown; football) impounding 5,300 tons. Now the meat, which has been in storage, is rumored to soon be released. Will it be billed as fresh?

Of course there are other dangerous meats in the South Korean diet. No hygiene regulations govern the millions of dogs slaughtered for food each year says the Herald Sun, because they are not considered livestock.

But that doesn’t mean worries about U.S. beef are unfounded.

Seven people have died from probable Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease in the U.S. in the last nine months including Connie Albert of Lincoln IL and Roger Leon Dalton of Willis, VA in Aug. 2007; Roland Lacey and Ray Norris–who lived within three miles of each other near Stanton, DE–and a 79-year-old woman in Milwaukee, WI all in Dec 2007; a 53-year-old man in Colby, KS in Jan. 2008, a former meat worker, and Aretha Vinson of Portsmouth VA in April.

While public health officials are quick to rule CJD “sporadic,” not meat-caused–even before brain biopsies or when it’s in clusters (hello)–to forestall panic about food and hospital safety, Aretha Vinson presented a perfect storm for U.S. trade officials:

Not only was she young at 22 and her family outspoken–“She has not traveled overseas. She’s not even been to the Midwest,” said her mother, adding she “wasn’t the only one who ate this food,”–the news broke in the middle of the Bush/Lee summit.

Dr. Richard Raymond, USDA Undersecretary For Food Safety, himself was forced to assure the South Korean and American publics that it wasn’t what everyone thought, citing the same we-don’t-really-know-but-it-sounds-good “epidemiologic characteristics” and “preliminary results” other dissembling public health officials use, in a May 4 statement.

“An official release once all testing is completed and confirmed is expected soon,” he added, no doubt hoping it comes after the South Koreans sign.

Nor does the provision in the beef agreement at the heart of the foment–that South Korea can’t halt beef imports if mad cow breaks out in the U.S. (unless the Paris-based World Organization for Animal Health downgrades the U.S. safety rating)–instill much faith.

Do trade officials know something we don’t know?

Especially since in May the Bush administration urged a federal appeals court to reverse a lower court ruling that allowed Arkansas City, KS-based Creekstone Farms Premium Beef to conduct advanced mad cow testing on its animals–presumably because it would raise consumer questions and make other packers look bad. (viz. BST-free milk labels)

“This is the government telling the consumers, ‘You’re not entitled to this information,'” protested Creekstone attorney Russell Frye, according to the AP, a charge also heard in March when USDA refused to name companies selling 143 million pounds of recalled Westland/Hallmark beef because the information was “proprietary.”

Meat from 200,000 dairy cows was impounded followed a Humane Society of the United States undercover video depicting slaughter of downer cattle –a violation of U.S. mad cow regulations.

The video may even have reached South Korea.

MARTHA ROSENBERG is staff cartoonist on the Evanston Roundtable. She can be reached at mrosenberg@evmark.org

 

More articles by:

Martha Rosenberg is an investigative health reporter. She is the author of  Born With A Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp The Public Health (Prometheus).

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
February 26, 2020
Matthew Hoh
Heaven Protect Us From Men Who Live the Illusion of Danger: Pete Buttigieg and the US Military
Jefferson Morley
How the US Intelligence Community is Interfering in the 2020 Elections
Patrick Cockburn
With Wikileaks, Julian Assange Did What All Journalists Should Do
Manuel García, Jr.
Climate Change and Voting 2020
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Russiagate: The Toxic Gift That Keeps on Giving
Andrew Bacevich
Going Off-Script in the Age of Trump
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Anti-Russian Xenophobia Reaches Ridiculous Levels
Ted Rall
Don’t Worry, Centrists. Bernie Isn’t Radical.
George Wuerthner
Whatever Happened to the Greater Yellowstone Coalition?
Scott Tucker
Democratic Socialism in the Twenty-First Century
Jonah Raskin
The Call of the Wild (2020): A Cinematic Fairy Tale for the Age of Environmental Disaster
George Ochenski
Why We Shouldn’t Run Government Like a Business
Binoy Kampmark
Julian Assange and the Imperium’s Face: Day One of the Extradition Hearings
Nozomi Hayase
Assange’s Extradition Hearing Reveals Trump’s War on Free Press Is Targeting WikiLeaks Publisher
Peter Harrison
Is It as Impossible to Build Jerusalem as It is to Escape Babylon? (Part Two)
Max Moran
Meet Brad Karp, the Top Lawyer Bankrolling the Democrats
David Swanson
Nonviolent Action for Peace
Ed Sanders
The Ex-Terr GooGoo Eyes “The Russkies Did it!” Plot
February 25, 2020
Michael Hudson
The Democrats’ Quandary: In a Struggle Between Oligarchy and Democracy, Something Must Give
Paul Street
The “Liberal” Media’s Propaganda War on Bernie Sanders
Sheldon Richman
The Non-Intervention Principle
Nicholas Levis
The Real Meaning of Red Scare 3.0
John Feffer
Cleaning Up Trump’s Global Mess
David Swanson
How Are We Going to Pay for Saving Trillions of Dollars?
Ralph Nader
Three Major News Stories That Need To Be Exposed
John Eskow
What Will You Do If the Democrats Steal It from Sanders?
Dean Baker
What If Buttigieg Said That He Doesn’t Accept the “Fashionable” View That Climate Change is a Problem?
Jack Rasmus
The Nevada Caucus and the Desperation of Democrat Elites
Howard Lisnoff
The Powerful Are Going After Jane Fonda Again
Binoy Kampmark
Viral Losses: Australian Universities, Coronavirus and Greed
John W. Whitehead
Gun-Toting Cops Endanger Students and Turn Schools into Prisons
Marshall Sahlins
David Brooks, Public Intellectual
February 24, 2020
Stephen Corry
New Deal for Nature: Paying the Emperor to Fence the Wind
M. K. Bhadrakumar
How India’s Modi is Playing on Trump’s Ego to His Advantage
Jennifer Matsui
Tycoon Battle-Bots Battle Bernie
Robert Fisk
There’s Little Chance for Change in Lebanon, Except for More Suffering
Rob Wallace
Connecting the Coronavirus to Agriculture
Bill Spence
Burning the Future: the Growing Anger of Young Australians
Eleanor Eagan
As the Primary Race Heats Up, Candidates Forget Principled Campaign Finance Stands
Binoy Kampmark
The Priorities of General Motors: Ditching Holden
George Wuerthner
Trojan Horse Timber Sales on the Bitterroot
Rick Meis
Public Lands “Collaboration” is Lousy Management
David Swanson
Bloomberg Has Spent Enough to Give a Nickel to Every Person Whose Life He’s Ever Damaged
Peter Cohen
What Tomorrow May Bring: Politics of the People
Peter Harrison
Is It as Impossible to Build Jerusalem as It is to Escape Babylon?
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail