business news in context, analysis with attitude

Canadian officials have confirmed that a new case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), better known as mad cow disease, has been discovered in a 10-year-old Alberta dairy cow.

However, officials said that the cow did not enter the human food supply nor the animal feed supply and that there was no risk to the public at large.

The confirmation came just days after US officials said that the border will be reopened to young cattle from Canada; the border has been closed to Canadian cattle exports since May 2003, when the first confirmed of BSE in Canada was found. The border closing cost Canadian farmers an estimated $4 billion (US) in lost revenue.

It was also just about a year ago that the US said that the first confirmed case of BSE in this country had been found, in a cow that had been born in Canada.

At the end of last week, a spokesman for the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) said that the new discovery shouldn’t impact plans to open the border to Canadian cattle exports. However, Sen. Tim Johnson (D-South Dakota) was quoted in the media as saying that the border opening was premature. "We need to make sure that the Canadian food supply is as safe as the American food supply before we risk our own market," he said in a prepared statement.
KC's View:
It’ll be politics vs. science as this debate plays out. After all, the Bush administration needs Japan to open its borders to US beef…but probably needs to be willing to accept Canadian beef to make that argument convincingly.

Unfortunately, politics seems to have the upper hand in 2005 America. And we keep waiting for more discoveries of mad cow in the US, and for the government’s testing policies to be shown to be inadequate.

Yes, we know we sound like Chicken Little on this one. (Though maybe the “Chicken” reference is inappropriate.) But we have the feeling that the trumpets of impending doom may be warming up somewhere in the distance. Maybe in Canada.