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Pig farmers will demonstrate against 'double dealing' on growth drug

by 5m Editor
20 August 2007, at 8:17am

TAIPEI - Local farmers say that they will demonstrate on Tuesday in Taipei, against the ban on local use of an animal drug while allowing foreign imports containing the same substance to enter Taiwan.

Lin Min-chi, chairman of the pig-raising association in Taichung County, central Taiwan, said that nearly 10,000 farmers from across the country are set to demonstrate in front of the Department of Health (DOH) as scheduled. They cannot accept the government's decision, and say that it is "toying" with the public's health and farmers' interests by planning to ease the ban on the unlawful drug.

Lin questioned how consumers could distinguish good products from bad if the government continues to permit ractopamine-tainted foreign imports to enter Taiwan. He warned that easing the ban will pose great risks to consumers' health and deal a heavy blow to local producers.

Main opposition Kuomintang (KMT) lawmakers and its presidential candidate, Ma Ying-jeou, have also voiced objections to a government planned removal of its ban on ractopamine -- an animal drug that promotes the growth of lean meat in livestock.

Ma expressed his opposition to the plan to relax the ban during a seminar with local pig farms on a visit to Tainan County, southern Taiwan.

The government's softened stance on the banned drug has stirred up fierce opposition from local consumer groups and hog raisers. The use of the illicit drug has provoke heated debates in society after two shipments of US pork imports were discovered last month to be ractopamine-tainted, while local farmers are banned from using the substance.

The government must apply the same criteria to examinations of local and foreign products to protect the health of Taiwan's people, saud Ma. He will suport local farmers' opposition to lifting the ban which will allow tainted foreign imports to enter the country.

Tainan hog farmers attending the seminar complained that US pork imports laced with ractopamine residue were low-end products. They lashed out at the government for discriminating against local people by seeking to permit such foreign imports. "We will never accept such double-dealing from the government," they said, vehemently.

KMT lawmakers also said that they were firmly opposed to easing the ban on ractopamine, whatever the reason cited by the government.

Chou Shou-hsun, a KMT legislative whip, said that the government must not undermine local farmers' interests and the public's health under any circumstances. However, he confirmed that the KMT would not be involved in the protests to avoid clouding the issue with political implications.

Reports suggest that the Executive Yuan is likely to reverse its earlier decision to lift the ban on ractopamine by following Japan's example. This would maintain a ban on its use by local pig producers, while allowing pork imports containing the substance to enter the domestic market.

Executive Yuan spokesman Shieh Jyh-wei said that the government has not yet made a final decision regarding lifting the ban and the use of the veterinary drug. Both the DOH and the Council of Agriculture (COA) have reiterated their stance. A final decision on whether to lift the ban will be made only once both agencies have fully assessed the viewpoints of all parties concerned.

The COA said that reported "double dealing" to handle local and foreign products is not the final conclusion.

Further Reading

Pig farmers' opinions on animal drug will be heeded: gov't official
Pig farmers to protest use of animal drug
China Puts U.S. on Notice Over Pork Shipments

5m Editor