Sat, Feb 18, 2012 - Page 2 News List

US BEEF CONTROVERSY: Farmers plan protest in Taipei

ZERO TOLERANCE:As the safety of US beef again came to the fore, livestock and poultry farmers have decided to protest against the use of ractopamine in a huge march

By Rich Chang  /  Staff Reporter, with CNA

Pigs stand in a pen at a Yunlin County farm on Feb. 2. Yunlin County has almost 1.5 million pigs, the second-largest hog population in the country, and pig farmers there are strongly opposed to opening Taiwan up to lean meat additives.

Photo: Liao Shu-ling, Taipei Times

Livestock and poultry farmers from across the country will stage a protest on March 3 in Taipei against easing restrictions on imports of beef with ractopamine residue from the US, one of the organizers confirmed yesterday.

“More than 10,000 pig, cattle and chicken farmers and workers will join the protest,” said Yang Guan-chang (楊冠章), director of the Republic of China Swine Association.

The protesters will first march to the Legislative Yuan, then to the Council of Agriculture and the Department of Health to voice their opposition to any government attempt to relax its zero-tolerance policy on ractopamine in US beef, Yang said.

The date of the protest was finalized at a meeting of livestock industry stakeholders and food safety groups in Greater Taichung earlier in the day, Yang said. The groups included the Homemakers’ Union and Foundation and the Taiwan Consumers’ Foundation, he added.

The protest was planned amid rumors that the government might bow to US pressure and allow imports of US beef that contain regulated amounts of the feed additive ractopamine, while maintaining its total ban on the use of the drug by local farmers.

Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Wu Ping-jui (吳秉叡) said yesterday he will submit a legislative proposal for a national referendum on whether to set permissible levels of ractopamine in US beef.

Wu said he will seek the legislature’s approval to petition the Central Election Commission to start the referendum process.

He said that, as a number of domestic experts have warned that opening the market to residue-laden beef would pose health risks, the government should not rush to any decision.

“If the government really wants people to accept US beef containing ractopamine, it should allow the people to have the final say,” Wu said.

However, People First Party caucus whip Thomas Lee (李桐豪) expressed concern that if the referendum failed, it could be used as a tool to open the nation’s doors fully to US beef imports.

Lee said the problem could be resolved by revising legislation, an option that he said would also take the pressure off the government.

The use of ractopamine in livestock farming is allowed in more than 20 countries around the world, besdies the US, but is banned in the EU, China and Taiwan.

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