What is BSE and how did it start? BSE (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy), also known as the Mad Cow Disease, is a disease that resulted from including ruminated animal parts as feed for ruminated animals. There also have been studies that this disease can infect or have infective carriers not only in ruminated animals but also in other mammals. There are many possible reasons for this disease which requires a lot of precautions.
Prion, known as the protein that causes the BSE, does not completely die after heating at a temperature of over 600℃ for over an hour. Also its infectiousness does not disappear even with ultra violet rays, x-rays, chemicals, or high pressure. Moreover, the infection rate of BSE is very strong. With only one gram of the cow's brain, it is enough to kill and if a human is infected, that individual has 15 months to live; showing how serious and dangerous this disease is. What is wrong with the US's system of BSE? Firstly, the quarantine system of the United States (US) is not reliable. Comparing the European Union (EU) countries and Japan running a system of inspecting every single slaughtered cow, the US inspects only 0.1 percent out of nearly 45 million cows they slaughter each year.
Secondly, since the US does not enforce a firm traceability system, tracing for BSE infected cows are apparently impossible. By any chance, a BSE infected cow has been identified, they do not have a clue where that cow came from.
Thirdly, the US is not discarding all Specified Risk Materials (SRM) and it's ending up into animal feed for pigs, chickens, etc. But the animal feed made by pigs and chickens are being fed back to cows resulting a circulation of this dreadful disease.
Fourthly, the system of precondition in the US is not mandatory and it is up to the staff in the slaughter plants to report. As a result, if one BSE infected cow is detected, the slaughter plant owner would shoot that cow and bury it on the ground because the US government has a regulation to force them to dispose all the other cows.
During the process of the negotiation between Korea and the US, the biggest problem is, despite the fact that the Korean representatives have agreed to FTA agreement, for the ratification of the US congress and to settle the agreement before the Korean-US summit, the lifting of the ban needed to take place although it leads the public health into danger. The beef negotiation between the US started on May 25, 2007, by the US's proposal. Therefore, the Korean government, according to an official inspection system, has proposed eight steps of imported risk examination procedure. During this process, the Korean government has provided an agreement policy of technical and scientific examination by scientist and livestock quarantine corporation, etc.
From July to October last year, there have been a total of six confirmations by the livestock quarantine corporation and specialist committee, saying that the US cattle of over 30 months old is not safe and it should be limited to younger cattle than 30 months old and to eliminate all SRMs. In addition, prohibition of all internal organs, bones, and pelvis bones due to Koreans eating habits.
These agreement policies have been proposed during the negotiation from October 11 to 12, last year, but due to great difficulties in both the US and Korean standpoint, the agreement has been put off.
However, a day after the general election, April 10, the Lee Myung-bak administration resumed the agreement and a day before the Korean and US summit, on April 18, the agreement has been settled. The result of the agreement has angered the entire Korean citizenry.
Even so, the agreement was made so that if the BSE is detected in the future, or vCJD (Human BSE) is to be diagnosed, prohibition of US beef importation will not take place. I just cannot understand how it has resulted to such an agreement. However, in January, the reason for this cause could be determined by obtaining the data report the Agriculture and Forestry Ministry submitted to the Presidential Transition Committee. The report presents that the agreement is not coming into a conclusion due to each countries opposite standpoint and to persuade the US congressmen and for the ratification of the US congress, the ban should be released and follow the OIE (Office of International des Epizooties) regulations.
As result, the Lee Myung-bak administration had to give up public health protection and to decide to lift the ban to settle the Korean-US FTA they were choking on. By giving up a fundamental precaution of an unknown horrific disease, BSE, and deciding to import beef that is older than 30 months as well as all the SRMs only means that the government is giving up is public health for a simple commercial profit?
This BSE case is not only a failed agreement. It is a serious situation where the entire Korean people's health and lives are in danger. We strongly need to reconsider a renegotiation and bring back the Korean future and our authority.
Translated by Song Jae-yoon
This contribution may have a different standpoint from The Hanyang Jounal's.