July 30, 2008


Legislators: Seoul concealed US feed rules in beef import agreement

Opposition legislators on Monday (July 28, 2008) said that the government has concealed relaxed feed rules that the US plans to implement next year in order to deflect public criticism of a revised beef import pact signed between South Korea and the US in mid-April.


Seoul agreed on April 18 that it would lift its 30-month age limit on cattle if the US agreed to implement improved feed rules, as protein-based feed is cited to be the main cause of mad cow disease.


However, the legislators said government records show that the agriculture, finance and foreign ministries all received information from the South Korean Embassy in Washington in late April that stated the US had actually eased protein-based feed rules since October 2005.


The US Food and Drug Administration pushed forward a proposal on 2005 to barred cattle that failed pre-slaughter inspections to be used as animal feed unless the brain and spinal cord marrow were removed, but the revised version announced on April 25 eased this particular rule.


The legislators said ministry officials had said that tightened rules would prevent the risk of US cattle coming down with mad cow disease but government documents clearly showed that Seoul knew that the contrary was true but had chosen to ignore the warnings and says that bad translation was the cause when the media reported the problem.


Legislators called on the government to find out who was responsible for the cover-up and to open access to all documents related to the South Korea-US beef agreement. The documents however, have been classified as 'off-limits' until the end of 2009.


The Agriculture Ministry said there is no cover-up as the differences between the feed rules have been posted on the US Food and Drug Administration's website. It also said while the views of the South Korean embassy in Washington had been sent to Seoul, experts did not check the contents until mid-May, nearly two weeks after the official announcement.

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