Before the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) came to power, it used to call the animal feed additive ractopamine “poison.” Today the party has taken the opposite view, and tries to avoid the topic during question-and-answer sessions at the Legislative Yuan.
Having noticed this, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) is using the situation to protest against the government allowing imports of US pork containing traces of ractopamine just to provoke the DPP. KMT legislators reached a new low-water mark last month when they threw pork intestines on the floor of the legislative chamber.
As a result, an issue that is all about safety paralyzed the legislative agenda and brought shame on the legislature through global media coverage.
Although Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) fiercely debates the issue with KMT lawmakers at the Legislative Yuan, he has failed to convince the public of the government’s US pork policy.
An online opinion poll conducted last month by my-formosa.com found that the number of people saying that the negative effects of the policy outweigh any gains increased from 51.6 percent in September to 59.4 percent.
On the question of how they would vote in the local government elections in 2022, 55 percent of respondents said that they would not vote for a candidate who supports imports of US pork containing traces of ractopamine.
Su’s approval rating also declined sharply by 9.4 percentage points.
As a result, DPP Taipei City Councilor Wang Shih-chien (王世堅) expressed the hope that Su would not win the debate while losing the hearts and minds of the public.
Under my leadership, the Formosa Republican Association has supported the government’s policy to lift the ban on US pork containing traces of ractopamine based on fair trade principles. The American people have consumed beef and pork with traces of ractopamine for decades, while many Taiwanese have consumed US beef since the opening of US beef imports several years ago, and there have been no reports of any damage to their health.
The EU opposes the use of ractopamine mainly as part of its pursuit of non-tariff trade barriers based on a protectionist stance. This is a common trick in international trade talks, but the DPP used to blindly cite the EU’s position when it was in the opposition.
Today, the DPP does not dare say that ractopamine is non-toxic, or that based on fair trade principles, the government cannot ban pork containing ractopamine residue or force importers to specify the additive on the label, as doing so would contravene international trade conventions.
The party is afraid that if it were to contradict itself by telling the truth, the public would question the legitimacy of its past irrational opposition.
The DPP must remember that there is nothing better than admitting one’s mistakes and correcting them, as an old Chinese saying goes. There is no shame in the party correcting a past error.
As the DPP and the KMT turn food safety into a political issue when they are not in power, they have caused unnecessary panic among the public, and struck a serious blow to the Taiwan-US economic and trade partnership.
Whoever started the trouble should end it. The DPP should honestly apologize to the public for its past irrational opposition, and provide a thorough explanation of why allowing US pork imports is rational and the best choice for the country, so as to put an end to the controversy over pork containing traces of ractopamine.
If the DPP continues to beat around the bush, it will only allow the KMT to continue its irrational games on the legislative floor. Even if the KMT makes a fool of itself in the process, it will not make the DPP look good either.
The country has more important national affairs to attend to and if it remains entangled with this insignificant matter, the public will strongly question the DPP government’s ability.
If the DPP cannot even handle the ractopamine issue, how will it handle the opening of Japanese food product imports, which are so crucial to the Taiwan-Japan partnership?
Taiwan must strengthen its economic and trade cooperation with other countries, and this is a task that brooks no delay. The Cabinet should stop resorting to sophistry to defend itself, and instead solve the problem instantly by confessing its past mistake to the public to win back their trust.
Tommy Lin is director of Wu Fu Eye Clinic and president of the Formosa Republican Association.
Translated by Eddy Chang
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