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Re: [greenyes] Mad Cow Disease and Our Times

Go Bob! I have to agree, that it is much easy to blame a medium of entertainment that used to be a privilege, but now has taken over much of what people think is what we want and need, b/c somebody else told us it was. The bottom line is there is a "green"ish channel out there, it is called PBS. The quality of shows on it are both educational and informative. You can't choose for someone else what you think is crap or not, just b/c we may not see the underlying qualities in Survivor, or Friends doesn't mean that for someone they don't exist. Also, I thought the article was about Mad Cow disease. So why are we talking about tv? Spongiform encephalopathy has been around for some time, it is a naturally occurring phenomenon, that probably was sped along by grinding up animal parts and feeding them to other animals, but it is not like it would never have occurred anyway. Elk have it, white tail and mule deer have it, Moose can get it, they aren't going around and cannibalizing each other so where did it come from? Good question. All they know is it is a mutated protein. It basically clogs up the system and shuts the parts down that don't get oxygen. But also, people don't tell you that there are similar type prions that cause disease in the heart, kidneys, and liver... in people. Spongiform encephalopathy is an interesting, yet perplexing disease. They know very little about it, but to play devils advocate, I can see why the government doesn't want everbody to get a hold of the testing system, but that in itself is very scary.
Kelly B

>>> "Peter Anderson" <anderson@no.address> 03/09/04 03:16PM >>>
At least, amidst all this doom and gloom, there is cause for hope.

For those who have felt distressed to see the draining away of any
technical basis under the controlling statutes in so many critical matters
at the EPA -- which has led so many of the agency's best and brightest to
resign in protest -- it is truly grand to know that things are apparently
worse, if that is possible, at the Department of Agriculture (see below).

But, lest anyone aver that a change of administrations in November would
be some kind of cure all, we need to digest the fact that within weeks of
taking office in 1993, the Clinton Administration took unprecedented
measures, including physical destruction of computer tapes documenting the
backup material in order to terminate with extreme prejudice a long
impending rule extending inspections from beef to poultry -- something that
Tyson, a major backer of the former President's election, vigorously

By saying that, I do not mean to make Ralph Nader's case, but clearly
something systemic, AND constructive, must be done if we are to offer a
future of hope to our children.

Twenty, thirty years from now, when our grandchildren are in college
reading historians of that day marvel with incredulity at the utter
breakdown of the rule of law and reason during these times we now live in
(something akin to the Gilded Age at the end of the 19th century), that
those people (us) acquiesced like cattle to slaughter to the unraveling of
America's democratic roots on the alter of the grossest and most short term
corporate greed, what we will reply to maintain our dignity.

When President Nixon fired Archibald Cox and Elliot Richardson in 1973,
the good people of both parties, as one, took the streets and his decision
did not stand.

Today, where, we must ask ourselves, where is the outrage?

If we can't muster outrage, we deserve what is going down.
Unfortunately, our children do not.


March 9, 2004


USDA Prohibits Mad-Cow Tests
By Outside Labs, Causing Outcry

Susan Brownawell, a mother of three, wants to be able to have her family's
beef screened for mad-cow disease. And Missouri rancher David Luker, who
supplies much of the family's meat, is willing to do just that.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is all that stands in their way.

The USDA, which conducts only limited testing on its own, doesn't allow
private testing for the fatal brain-wasting disease in cattle, in part
because officials worry that potential marketing for tested meat would
confuse consumers. That is, if some beef is labeled as coming from cattle
tested for mad cow, it may imply that untested beef isn't necessarily safe.

Federal officials also say they fear that private laboratories would report
false positives, upsetting overseas customers and causing cattle prices to
crash. By keeping mad-cow testing within USDA walls, officials argue, the
government can confirm test results before they become public.

But with the first appearance of the disease in a U.S. cow more than two
months ago, pressure is mounting on the department to give up the government
monopoly on testing.

"This is ridiculous. If people want to have their beef tested, they should
be able to," says Ms. Brownawell, a Web page designer in Fulton, Mo. "Isn't
this how the free market works?"
The mad-cow discovery spotlights whether shoppers should be able to verify
the safety of their food however they want, particularly if the government
won't do it for them. The dispute pits consumer advocates and some beef
entrepreneurs against the USDA and big-beef interests.

The USDA's qualms about allowing private testing reflects the agency's
sometimes conflicting missions to promote the $27 billion cattle industry at
the same time it is supposed to protect consumers from bad meat. Indeed, the
USDA is respecting the wishes of most big meatpackers, which want a tight
lid on mad-cow testing. The USDA also has a vested interest in keeping
testing out of the hands of private companies, since their work could
challenge the Bush administration's position that mad cow isn't a problem in
the U.S.

The USDA's monopoly on mad-cow testing frustrates Mr. Luker, who owns
Missouri Valley Natural Beef, in Chamois, Mo., a company that sells
naturally raised beef door-to-door to customers such as Ms. Brownawell.

The mad-cow discovery prompted some of Mr. Luker's customers to ask whether
he tests his cattle for the disease, because consumption of tainted meat
products can trigger a very rare but always fatal brain disease in humans
called variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. After a lot of phone calls, he
tracked down the USDA's only mad-cow testing laboratory in Ames, Iowa. Mr.
Luker says he asked the laboratory to screen his cattle -- a service for
which he is willing to pay -- but he says he was rebuffed and told that the
beef supply is safe.

"I think the question is whether the USDA has such a far-reaching right to
make such a far-reaching risk assessment for me," says the rancher, who has
160 head of cattle on his ranch. He says the inability to test for the
disease, technically known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE, has
cost him at least one potential customer.

Creekstone Farms Premium Beef LLC, a meatpacker that slaughters cattle at a
plant in Arkansas City, Kan., in February said it would build its own
mad-cow testing laboratory -- an announcement that prompted a USDA warning
that anyone testing without its approval could face criminal charges.

Creekstone says it is trying to restart shipments to Japan, which insists on
100% testing first. The Bush administration's refusal to satisfy this
request is forcing some U.S. meatpackers to lay off workers. The borders of
more than 50 countries remain closed to American beef exports, which last
year totaled about $3 billion.

"If we can improve food safety, keep our customers happy and protect the
jobs of our workers, I would walk into jail," says Bill Fielding, chief
operating officer of closely held Creekstone, which is trying to enlist
support from Kansas's congressional delegation.

"Private companies should be able to test if they want," says Michael
Levine, president of the meat business at Organic Valley, a nationwide
cooperative of organic farmers. "I think the USDA is just petrified of
finding more instances of BSE," he adds.


Peter Anderson
4513 Vernon Blvd. Suite 15
Madison, WI 53705
Ph: (608) 231-1100
Fax: (608) 233-0011
Cell (608) 438-9062
email: anderson@no.address

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