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Do South Korean Meat Protesters Know Something We Don't?

By       Message Martha Rosenberg       (Page 1 of 2 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   4 comments

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"We Don't Like The FDA," chant thousands of demonstrators in candlelight vigils, some dressed as cows.

"Mad Cow, You Eat It!"

"Send Mad Cow To The Presidential Office!"

A scene from the National Mall? San Francisco?

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No the nightly rallies are in Seoul and 22 other South Korean cities to protest ratification of the pending US/South Korea free trade agreement, KORUS FTA.

The agreement, drafted a year ago but not yet signed, would boost two-way trade between the nations to $98 billion a year from $78 under the condition that South Korea lift almost all restrictions on US beef, including the age of butchered cattle.

KORUS FTA is considered the most significant event in South Korea-US relations since the 1953 military accord and was punctuated by a visit last month from newly elected South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak to Camp David where no South Korean president has been invited. Lee is a pro-American conservative, unlike his predecessor Roh Moo-hyun who was elected on an anti-American platform.

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While the FTA delivers on Lee's pledge to double South Korea's wealth if elected and lets the US rebuild its Asian beef trade obliterated by a mad cow scare five years ago--especially exports to China and Japan--many in South Korea are saying, "You want us to import WHAT"?

Because South Korean cuisine, "includes cow bones and intestines that are believed to have a higher concentration of prions," writes Cho Jin-seo in South Korea Times, South Koreans feel they are at greater risk for Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD) if the beef is infected with mad cow disease.

They interpret the agreement's prohibition of, "the use of the entire carcass of cattle not inspected and passed for human consumption, unless the cattle are less than 30 months of age, or the brains and spinal cords have been removed," to mean meat from cattle under 30 months old or stripped of the high-risk materials will be uninspected.

Gruesome TV programs featuring cows being slaughtered and a report by a professor of medicine at Hallym University on MBC that South Koreans are genetically more vulnerable to vCJD--which other scientists refuted--have fanned the flames. So have Internet based rumors that cosmetics, diapers, sanitary napkins and noodles contain cow tissue and are contaminated.

Until the discovery of mad cow disease in the US in 2003, South Korea was the third largest importer of US beef, spending $850 million year. It eased the ban in 2006 only to find backbones, a banned substance, lurking in the beef and reban it (see: Charlie Brown; football) impounding 5,300 tons. Now the meat, which has been in storage, is rumored to soon be released. Will it be billed as fresh?

Of course there are other dangerous meats in the South Korean diet. No hygiene regulations govern the millions of dogs slaughtered for food each year says the Herald Sun, because they are not considered livestock.

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But that doesn't mean worries about US beef are unfounded.

Eight people have died from probable Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease in the US in the last nine months including Connie Albert of Lincoln, IL and Roger Leon Dalton of Willis, VA in Aug. 2007; Roland Lacey and Ray Norris--who lived within three miles of each other near Stanton, DE--and a 79-year-old woman in Milwaukee, WI all in Dec. 2007; a 53-year-old man in Colby, KS in Jan. 2008, a former meat worker, Aretha Vinson of Portsmouth, VA in April and Bob McCord of Burbank, CA in May.

WIVB TV in Buffalo, NY even reported that former Mayor Jimmy Griffin died of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease in May but the story was removed as quickly as it appeared with only headlines remaining on the Internet.

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Martha Rosenberg is an award-winning investigative public health reporter who covers the food, drug and gun industries. Her first book, Born With A Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp The Public Health, is distributed by Random (more...)
 

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