A last-minute motion urging a ban on all US beef imports was voted down in the legislature yesterday, despite the discovery of a case of mad cow disease in US livestock last month.
Lawmakers voted 52 to 45 against the proposal — the third of its kind to be put forward since a confirmed case of the deadly illness was identified in California last month — which called to immediately pull US beef from store shelves and stop all beef imports from the country. Previously, the motion was rejected by a vote of 45 to 44 and 50 to 44.
Opposition party legislators, who have spearheaded the three unsuccessful motions, have been voted down each time, with lawmakers from the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) controlling 64 of the 113 seats in the legislature.
“Love your children, say no to mad cow disease,” opposition lawmakers shouted following the motion’s defeat.
Earlier in the week, a Cabinet proposal to allow set residue levels of the feed additive ractopamine in imported US beef was narrowly defeated in a legislative committee vote. However, the legislative caucuses agreed that the bill would be put to a vote again in a plenary session at a later date.
Since President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) was re-elected in January, his administration has been eager to lift the ban on US beef imports containing the controversial chemical.
However, local civic groups and some health specialists have argued that ractopamine poses unidentified health risks and have accused the government of compromising the nation’s health in the interests of diplomacy.
Imports of US beef have been a sore point in trade ties between Taipei and Washington for many years. Taiwan first banned US beef imports in 2003 when a case of mad cow disease was reported in Washington state. In April 2005, Taiwan re-opened its market to imports of boneless US beef from cattle under 30 months old, but imposed another ban in June 2005 when a second case of the fatal illness was reported.
Imports of boneless beef from cows under 30 months of age were again resumed in 2006 and in late 2009, bone-in beef imports were also permitted. Washington has been pressing for a wider opening for years and, more recently, has been lobbying Taiwan strongly to lift its ban on beef containing ractopamine residues.