A group of students took to the streets of Taipei yesterday to protest against a government plan to conditionally allow US beef imports containing residues of the livestock feed additive ractopamine.
They called on the government not to sacrifice public health for economic interests and to safeguard the health of students, who may not be able to afford -ractopamine-free beef.
The group of 15 students gathered outside the legislature holding banners that read: “Tainted beef goes against social justice” and “I want health.”
They urged the government not to pursue economic goals at the expense of the health of future generations.
One of the protesters, Hsieh Chuan-kai (謝傳鎧), said the issue is of particular concern to -students because many of them have small food budgets and they are therefore more likely to be served inexpensive US beef that contains ractopamine residues.
“In the absence of regulations requiring clear labeling, students may unknowingly eat -ractopamine-tainted beef,” he said.
The government has said the US beef issue is central to the reopening of talks with the US under the bilateral Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) and Taiwan’s inclusion in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a free-trade group led by the US.
However, Hsieh said the government should “clearly explain what they hope to discuss under the TIFA and the impact the beef imports may have on all sectors in Taiwan.”
The TIFA, signed in September 1994, provides an official framework for Taiwan-US dialogue on trade and economic issues in the absence of diplomatic ties. Bilateral talks under the TIFA have been stalled since 2007.
Washington decided against resuming TIFA talks early last year after Taiwan refused to allow the entry of US beef containing ractopamine residues.
Another protester, Chen Ting-hao (陳廷豪), said if the government persists with its plan, the group would urge colleges nationwide to keep tight checks on the beef products used on campus, in an effort to keep ractopamine-tainted beef out of schools.
The ractopamine issue has been a source of controversy, spurring discussions on the health risks and the impact on the livelihoods of local livestock farmers.
A Cabinet decision early last month to conditionally lift the ban on the leanness-enhancing drug triggered legislative boycotts and protests by pig farmers.
The nation currently maintains a zero-tolerance policy on ractopamine in livestock and meat products, but it is allowed in the US and other countries.